This year continues to be an exciting and busy time for mothers2mothers (m2m). We are making progress with the Government of Kenya to develop the country’s own Mentor Mother program, to be known as the Kenya Mentor Mother Program (KMMP). The KMMP is the first national commitment to the adoption of the m2m model and is an important first step as m2m’s work evolves from the direct delivery of services to providing technical assistance to countries administering their own Mentor Mother program. This new model will allow m2m to reach as many women living with HIV as possible in a sustainable manner. m2m’s work in Kenya has received high-level recognition, most recently when the United States Ambassador to Kenya Scott Gration and his wife Judy visited a m2m site in Kisumu, Kenya. Ambassador Gration spent an afternoon talking with the Mentor Mothers and listening to their stories. He left pleased, and shared his enthusiasm for the national scale-up of the Mentor Mother model.
In September, m2m and Management Sciences for Health held bipartisan briefings in the Senate and House of Representatives entitled, “The Elimination of New HIV Infections in Children by 2015 and Keeping Mothers Alive: A Call to Action.” Representatives from the non-profit, government and corporate communities in the U.S. and Africa discussed how a world without pediatric HIV is within reach. Robin Smalley, m2m’s Co-Founder and International Director, moderated the panel and Nozi Samela, a former Mentor Mother and current Communications Associate for m2m, spoke on the panel and shared her story with the audience which was comprised of Members of Congress, Congressional staff, and members of the NGO, advocacy and global health sectors.
mothers2mothers has reached thousands of pregnant women and new mothers living with HIV in 9 sub-Saharan African countries including: South Africa, Lesotho, Swaziland, Zambia, Malawi, Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda. Our Mentor Mothers (MMs) are critical to eliminating new HIV infections among children. A Mentor Mother is a mother living with HIV who is trained and employed as part of a medical team to support and educate pregnant women and new mothers on how to prevent mother-to-child transmission and make healthy choices for themselves and their babies
In 2010, m2m had 1757 Mentor Mothers working in 714 sites in 9 African countries, reaching nearly 25,000 new clients every month. We reached about 275,000 HIV-positive women and new mothers – that is 1 in 5 of every pregnant women living with HIV in the world.
Through our work:
- Clients (pregnant women and new mothers living with HIV) receive support and education from MM and are able to discuss issues they face on a daily basis;
- Clients are offered a safe space that contributes to overcoming stigma and discrimination they face as people living with HIV.
- Positive working relations established between m2m staff and the facility staff contribute to client retention in the PMTCT cascade.
My Story of Hope by Elizabeth Ayoti A kanga
“My name is Elizabeth Ayoti A kanga; I am 29 years old, a mother of three prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV (PMTCT) compliant children aged 2yrs, 8yrs and 13 years old. I am privileged to share my experience at mothers2mothers (m2m) as a client and currently a Mentor Mother at Riruta Health Centre, Nairobi - Kenya.
My experience in PMTCT began in 2008, when I visited Riruta health centre for my first antenatal visit during my third pregnancy. After pretest counseling, I was tested and the worst of my worries was confirmed – I was HIV positive! The PMTCT nurse, saw the sorrow in me and referred me to the m2m room where I was introduced to m2m site staff. I was given a warm welcome, and then one of them offered me a cup of tea, pulled a seat and sat close to me. She went ahead to introduce herself as Anastasia, and providing me with a brief of the work they were doing at the facility. I was just silent still in shock and just staring blankly at as she talked. However when she went ahead to disclose her status as being HIV positive, I could not believe it –something that triggered a lot of questions in my mind. She further narrated her experience as a person living with HIV/AIDS (PLWHA) including how she disclosed to her partner and how she successfully underwent PMTCT giving birth to a HIV negative 2-year old baby. I did not believe this and I thought she was lying. She encouraged, advised me on the best way to break this news to my partner. I felt relieved and went back home. I briefed my husband about my clinic visit including the fact that I was not allowed to access services as the facility staff wanted him at the hospital. Surprise was written all over his face and asked “Since when was this requirement at the clinics?” Nevertheless, he agreed to accompany me to the facility the following day. We went back to the same Mentor Mother who educated us on importance of protecting our baby from HIV. My husband agreed both of us were tested and turned out to be positive. He was shocked, almost collapsed but the Mentor Mother gave us support and guidance on positive living.
We were started on ART therapy, and went back home, the Mentor Mother assured us that all would be well if I followed the doctors instructions. She encouraged us to join the m2m support group for ongoing psychosocial support. During my third trimester, l developed pregnancy complications which triggered premature labor. I successfully underwent cesarean section and got my baby who was put in the incubator. I decided to exclusively breast feed because of the education I received from Mentor Mothers.
We later joined m2m support group at Riruta health centre and my husband supported me to ensure that my baby gets the best care. At six weeks I took my baby for PCR testing and you know what? It was negative!! II had never been this happy for a long time. It actually a turning point in my life. From now onwards I did not take any chances as I strictly followed m2m advice and guidance to the letter and at 9 and 18 months, both tests were negative. And that was my turning point, indeed it was a great joy to me and my husband, I then decided to bring in my other children for the test and they all tested negative.
The m2m program has really opened my eyes, it has enabled me to have a negative baby, mothers are giving birth to negative babies too, I have gained courage to disclose my status to my family members which was a challenge before, educated me on income generating activities, my family is now living a better life with no fear of us dying soon, male involvement has increased in the facility, I also have a saving account, currently saving to purchase a motorbike for business in reserve, I have also gained respect in the community so this has made my work even easier in helping them have negative babies.
I have never regretted being a Mentor Mother. The m2m program has descended on our mothers, I feel privileged to congratulate it for its good work, our women are gaining a lot of information on HIV/AIDS. This has improved their lives and they have also have HIV negative babies. May God bless mothers2mothers. I think m2m deserves a special mention, with its symbol of good psychosocial support to our mothers.”
Your financial support will enable us to continue to provide services to pregnant women and new mothers living with HIV and their babies in sub-Saharan Africa.
We are counting on your financial support, will you join us?