The official theme of World AIDS Day this year was “Communities Make The Difference.” The theme recognises the vital role that communities are playing - both to prevent new HIV infections, and deliver life-saving health services to people living with HIV.
This resonates deeply at mothers2mothers (m2m), an African not-for-profit that unlocks the power of women to dramatically improve the health and wellbeing of women, children and adolescents.
Our peer-based model is rooted in the communities we serve. Every day, we witness the power of African women employed and trained as frontline health workers who deliver transformative health outcomes in their own communities as m2m Mentor Mothers. Since we began in 2001, m2m has employed more than 10,000 local women who, together, have reached more than 11 million women and children – helping to create opportunities for hopeful and healthy futures, and critically, to achieve their dreams.
One of these women is Promise James – a Community Mentor Mother in the Mulanje District of Malawi. She works tirelessly – traveling door to door by bicycle to visit women and families at home, supporting them with essential health services and education, and ensuring they stay in care. To spread her message even further, she leads numerous group sessions for women living with HIV and HIV-negative women and men, new mothers, and adolescents, providing education and support tailored to their needs. Topics range from the importance of HIV testing and treatment, sexual and reproductive health, to best parenting practices and early childhood development.
What makes Promise’s messages resonate deeply among her clients is that she is not only from their community – she is herself living with HIV and has overcome many of the challenges that her clients face. She uses her own experiences to build trusting relationships that give her clients the confidence to overcome HIV-related stigma and fears, and access the care they need.
When you realise the difference that Promise is making in her community, it won’t come as a surprise the impact that the approximately 1,700 Mentor Mothers at m2m are creating as a team. Among the highlights – m2m has achieved virtual elimination of mother-to-child transmission of HIV among its clients for five years in a row. We retain our clients in care – 94% of our clients living with HIV who started antiretroviral treatment for the first time were still on treatment after a year, compared to a retention rate of 75% in Eastern and Southern Africa. We also help prevent new HIV infections. In 2018, just 0.12% of the HIV-negative pregnant women supported by a Mentor Mother contracted HIV, 30 times lower than a 2014 pan-African benchmark of 3.6%.
While World AIDS Day is a time to celebrate the progress that has been made in the fight against HIV and AIDS, it is also essential to acknowledge the hard work that lies ahead to create a truly HIV-free future. To give you a sense of the scale of the challenge – more than 400 children are still infected with HIV each day in sub-Saharan Africa. Meanwhile, adolescent girls and young women are disproportionately affected by the epidemic with around 6,000 infected with HIV globally each week.
We urge you to support our work and stand shoulder to shoulder with Mentor Mothers, like Promise, to help them to create healthy futures for more women, children, and adolescents across sub-Saharan Africa. If you are interested in learning more about the inspirational work that Promise is doing in her community, please follow this link.
This article was written by our associate member m2m on the occasion of World Aids Day 2019
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