Mothers Can End Mother-to-Child-Transmission of HIV

When Thabile visited the Nkhaba Health Centre for her first antenatal visit, there was a lot on her mind. Diagnosed with HIV four years prior, she expressed her fear to the nurses at the clinic...fear that she would infect her child and fear that she would die, leaving him orphaned.
This post was published on the now-closed HuffPost Contributor platform. Contributors control their own work and posted freely to our site. If you need to flag this entry as abusive, send us an email.

When Thabile visited the Nkhaba Health Centre for her first antenatal visit, there was a lot on her mind. Diagnosed with HIV four years prior, she expressed her fear to the nurses at the clinic...fear that she would infect her child and fear that she would die, leaving him orphaned. Thabile lives in Swaziland, which has the world's highest estimated prevalence rate of HIV-infected adults, at 26% of people aged 15-49.*

Every day, approximately 700 children across the world are infected with HIV, the majority of them in sub-Saharan Africa.** Half of them will die by age two if they go without treatment. Almost all children infected with HIV acquire the disease from preventable causes -- through their mothers during pregnancy, childbirth or breastfeeding. Unfortunately, too many mothers lack access to safe and affordable health solutions available for the prevention of mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT).

I am proud to be at mothers2mothers (m2m), where we work with mothers, such as Thabile, who desperately want to prevent their children from getting HIV. We serve more than one in four HIV-positive pregnant women across m2m-supported countries, all of whom hope and dream to raise their children to live a future free from HIV.

The nurses at the health centre sent Thabile to meet with one of our Mentor Mothers. Our "Mentor Mothers" are trained and empowered local mothers living with HIV, employed as frontline healthcare workers in understaffed health centres and within communities. Who better to teach a frightened HIV-positive woman about family health than another HIV-positive woman who understands the stigma and struggle she faces? Through trusted relationships with their peers, Mentor Mothers are able to provide essential health education, support and care, enabling women to protect their babies and family from HIV.

At Thabile's first meeting, her m2m Mentor Mother talked to Thabile about her feelings and educated her about how by taking the medicine she was given as directed, she would greatly improve the chances of her baby being born negative and staying healthy herself. "The Mentor Mothers met with me to tell me how important it was to disclose my status to my partner and family. They promised to support me because I was so nervous... I don't know if I could have done it without them. I kept going back to the clinic as often as I could to attend m2m support groups because I wanted to make sure I did everything right for my baby," said Thabile.

At mothers2mothers, women like Thabile have been given hope and the opportunity to have a healthy family. In 2015, we virtually eliminated mother-to-child transmission of HIV among our clients for the second year in a row, with mother-to-child transmission rate of 2.1% at both the 18 to 24 month HIV test. That is well below the 5% mark established by UN Global Plan guidelines. The mothers who work with m2m are determined to achieve the bold goal to end the HIV epidemic and address global health priorities, including 6 of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the UNAIDS 90-90-90 target.

Our effective model is attributable to the quality of the care our dedicated Mentor Mothers provide. In Thabile's words, "Every month I returned to the clinic to refill my medications and every month a Mentor Mother was there to encourage me and tell me to keep up the good work. Every Mentor Mother is like a sister to me. When I'm there, I am free to talk and I get an answer. They give me love, honesty, support. They give me everything."

Thabile is only one of the many lives we have touched. I am thrilled that in 2015, we reached approximately 860,500 pregnant women, infants, children, adolescent girls and young women, and men. And we have achieved enormous success getting infants tested and treated fact, mothers who met two or more times with a m2m Mentor Mother are over 7 times more likely to test their babies for HIV at 6 weeks, compared to women with just one visit.

Following her Mentor Mother's advice, Thabile's baby son was tested for HIV at the clinic at three months old, and again at six months after she had stopped breastfeeding. Holding her hand as Thabile waited breathlessly for the results, was Thabile's Mentor Mother. When good news came that her baby was still negative, their shared joy was palpable! "My next big milestone will be when my baby is 18 months and I will know for sure that he is negative and healthy. But with the help of mothers2mothers, I am confident that he will live to be a big man and do something better than me and help me as a single mother," said Thabile.

About mothers2mothers
mothers2mothers (m2m) is an Africa-based NGO, which leads global efforts to end paediatric AIDS and create healthy families and communities by training, employing, and empowering HIV-positive mothers to be frontline healthcare workers. Since its founding in 2001, m2m has reached more than 1.4 million HIV-positive mothers in nine countries in sub-Saharan Africa with its scalable, high-impact peer approach.

Join us by visiting or follow us on: Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

CONTACT: Senior Communications Manager, Carolyn McEwen
T: +1 323 969 0445

* CDC Global Health - Swaziland
*** UN Global Plan guidelines

Go To Homepage

Popular in the Community