Mothers help mothers to prevent paediatric AIDS
mothers2mothers trains and employs mothers living with HIV to work as frontline health workers called Mentor Mothers. These Mentor Mothers help other women living with the virus and their families to access healthcare, start the treatment they need and stay in care, with a focus on reducing HIV infections and related illnesses. From 2017 to 2019, we supported mothers2mothers to roll this model out across seven health facilities and their surrounding communities in East Central Uganda. 82 women were trained to become Mentor Mothers and 36 young women became Adolescent Peer Educators. Together they served nearly 77,000 women and adolescent girls.
In Uganda, 1.4 million people live with HIV (2018). Women and adolescent girls are disproportionately affected, with HIV prevalence almost four times higher among young women aged 15 to 24 than young men of the same age.
Limited reproductive health services and HIV knowledge, understaffed hospitals and stigma prevent women and girls from seeking life-saving antiretroviral therapy. Without medical support, up to 40% of children born to HIV-positive mothers could contract the virus.
mothers2mothers (m2m) trains and employs mothers living with HIV to work as frontline health workers called Mentor Mothers who help other women and their families to stay healthy and to know their HIV status through testing, so that they can access treatment if needed. They provide essential health information at the health clinic and in the community, and help women who test positive deal with the diagnosis and to access critical medical care, with a focus on reducing HIV infections and related illnesses and on combatting stigma.
Mentor Mothers’ intimate understanding of the social and cultural challenges of living with HIV, and of the realities of the communities they live in, gives them a unique ability to form trusted relationships with other women, which prove vital in helping them overcome their fears and make lifesaving decisions.
In an effort to reach more adolescents, m2m is also trialling another model of peer-support: training and employing Adolescent Peer Educators to educate adolescent girls and young women on sexual and reproductive health. They also support pregnant and postnatal adolescent girls and young women living with HIV to ensure they have healthy pregnancies and give birth to an HIV-free baby.
From 2017 to 2019, we supported mothers2mothers to roll its model out across seven health facilities and their surrounding communities in East Central Uganda.
- 82 women were trained and empowered to become Mentor Mothers and 36 young women became Adolescent Peer Educators. Together they served nearly 77,000 women, mostly pregnant or lactating mothers and adolescents, educating and supporting them to access healthcare, start the treatment they needed and stay in care, with a focus on reducing HIV infections and related illnesses. 42,850 of these women had recently been identified as highly vulnerable people.
- For many women, becoming a Mentor Mother is an important stepping-stone towards generating an income and providing for their families. Mentor Mothers are therefore encouraged to set up Village Savings and Loan Associations, whose members save together and take small low-interest loans from those savings. During the 3-year programme, 46 groups were formed with 843 active members, including 78 Mentor Mothers. Their cumulative financial savings amounted to more than 108.2 million Ugandan shillings (nearly $30,000).
- Mentor Mothers used every opportunity available in the communities, including social events, religious congregation gatherings and community meetings, as opportunities for community awareness-raising, education and the referral of clients to health centres. As a result of this approach, a total of 2,771 community education sessions were conducted, reaching 100,267 pregnant women, breastfeeding women, men and adolescent boys and young men.
The 2018 Country Evaluation conducted by m2m reveals that:
- 97% of m2m clients who were new or expecting mothers were tested for HIV, and of those who tested positive, 99% were started on lifesaving treatment, exceeding the ambitious global targets of 95% for achievement by 2025 in both categories.
- 90% of HIV-exposed infants of m2m clients were given antiretroviral therapy to protect them from infection.
- 97% of them were tested for HIV at 6-8 weeks. 2.6% of them resulted positive, compared with a national average of 7.4%.
Building on the accomplishments of our first grant, we’re renewing our support to help extend the reach of Mentor Mothers in east-central Uganda. This will see mothers2mothers expand its health services to cover maternal and child’s health, early learning and disabilities, and reproductive and adolescent healt.