The highlight of Johanna’s trip was a World AIDS Day luncheon on Monday, December 1st, at the Mondrian Hotel, who kindly sponsored the event, overlooking the London skyline The event was hosted by mothers2mothers (m2m) and Next Management, a global modelling agency, to announce their exciting new partnership.
Johanna captivated everyone in the room by sharing her courageous and emotional story of being told by her doctor in 2000 that she had only months to live after testing positive for HIV, and then watching helplessly as two of her babies died in her arms at seven months of HIV-related illnesses. Thankfully her doctor was wrong, and she has devoted her life to making sure that other HIV-positive mothers do not have to go through the heartbreak that she experienced. In her job as an m2m Mentor Mother, Johanna provides women with education and support so they can protect their babies from HIV infection and stay healthy. “That’s what keeps me going. Over the years I have been able to touch the lives of thousands of women and their children. I now have two HIV negative children and I believe I am the richest woman in the world,” she said at the end of her speech.
As soon as Johanna stopped speaking, everyone in the room rose to their feet in an enthusiastic standing ovation. Paul Goldstein Di Principe, Creative Director and Founder of Voyage D’Etudes, a place where the adventure of travel comes together in a scrapbook of human experience, (Next Management) posted after the event, “Today is #worldAIDSday and I was given the honour by @nextmodels of meeting Johanna one of the incredible HIV positive mentors [email protected] having lost her first 2 children to the illness she shared her courageous tale of taking medication and going to not just have 2 healthy children but how she works to educate other mothers in her community so that their children can be born #hivnegative too #likeagirl #icons #donate.”
“Eye opening inspirational lunch with @m2mtweets @NextModels in 10 years they’ve helped over 1.2 million babies be born HIV free! AMAZING!” tweeted singer Leon Else, who attended the luncheon along with other members of Next talent roster, including The Saturday’s Mollie King, Lola and Tali Lennox, and Poppy Jamie to name a few.
m2m Founder Dr. Mitch Besser also spoke at the luncheon, telling the audience that we will see a generation free of HIV in this lifetime, so long as global efforts to eliminate the pandemic do not slow down. European Director Emma France thanked Stephanie Phair, President of THE OUTNET.COM, and her team for this summer’s hugely successful global sale benefiting m2m in collaboration with UNAIDS International Goodwill Ambassador Victoria Beckham. She also recognised the representative from the 2014 m2m Cycle to Zero team who only one month ago covered 500 km by bicycle across South Africa and Swaziland in order to raise funds and awareness for m2m.
That evening, Johanna was the guest of honour at a Swedish Christmas Dinner hosted by m2m UK Board member Carolina Manhusen Schwab and her husband Martin at their home for the Cycle to Zero participants.
Johanna also managed to squeeze in some time to see some of London’s sights, including
London Eye, Trafalgar Square, and Parliament Square. She especially enjoyed introducing Carolina Manhusen Schwab’s two little girls to the statue of Nelson Mandela in Parliament Square. “My People,” she kept saying while re-enacting Mandela’s arms outstretched infamous pose.