While tremendous progress has been made over the last decade to eliminate paediatric AIDS, more than 400 babies are still infected with HIV globally each day. About 75% of these children live in sub-Saharan Africa, and most acquire HIV from their mothers during pregnancy, childbirth, and breastfeeding. It’s unacceptable and it’s tragic because it’s almost entirely preventable.
Effective and inexpensive medical interventions are available that can keep mothers and babies healthy. Without these interventions, up to 40% of infants born to HIV-positive mothers will contract the virus. With treatment, that number can be reduced to 2%.
However, most health centres in sub-Saharan Africa are severely understaffed which leaves doctors and nurses with only minutes to give a pregnant woman her HIV diagnosis and explain all of the drugs and tests she must adhere to in order to keep herself healthy and protect her baby from HIV. The stigma of HIV that is prevalent in many African communities causes women to live in fear, making it difficult for them to get the care they need.
Mothers2mothers is changing that. They train, employ, and empower local mothers living with HIV, called Mentor Mothers, as frontline healthcare workers in understaffed health centres and within communities. Mentor Mothers’ intimate understanding of the social and cultural challenges of living with HIV gives them a unique ability to form trusted relationships with other women, vital to helping them overcome their fears and make lifesaving decisions.
Since it’s inception, M2M programmes have virtually eliminated mother-to-child transmission of HIV.