m2m President and CEO Frank Beadle de Palomo shares his reflections on the state of the HIV/AIDS pandemic and m2m’s work to create an HIV-free generation:
Today is World AIDS Day, a day observed around the world to raise awareness of HIV/AIDS, remember those we have lost, and remind ourselves that even though tremendous progress has been made in the fight against AIDS, the battle is far from over.
If we are serious about the Global Goal of ending the HIV/AIDS pandemic by 2030, the scale of the task that lies ahead is sobering. Almost 40 million people are currently living with HIV. Thousands of people are newly infected each day, and a million people died last year from AIDS-related illnesses. As the pandemic evolves, one of the biggest concerns is how the world’s youngest citizens are being impacted. Nearly 7,000 adolescent girls and young women are infected with HIV each week globally, the vast majority in sub-Saharan Africa. And each day, more than 400 children are infected with HIV around the world, despite the fact that we know exactly how to prevent mother-to-child transmission.
Yet, while we know the challenge is great, we also believe the solution is simple. Women—trained and employed as frontline healthcare workers—have proven time and again that they have the power to comprehensively tackle HIV’s causes and effects and ensure that families thrive. In 2016 alone, mothers2mothers’ (m2m) “Mentor Mother Model”—which sees HIV-positive women employed to deliver vital health services and support—enrolled nearly two million new clients and helped to prevent HIV infection in over 700,000 children. Moreover, for the third year in a row, we saw virtual elimination of mother-to-child transmission among our enrolled clients.
At the same time, this model provided employment and empowerment opportunities for those who would otherwise be among society’s most marginalised. The African Union is calling for two million more community health workers to be employed by 2020 to close Africa’s healthcare gap and help deliver the “right to health”—UNAIDS’ chosen theme for today. With results like this possible, m2m supports this call, and believes that urgent investment is an imperative for anyone who cares about public health and women’s empowerment.
As we face this challenge, and advocate for solutions, we are also glad to have powerful allies by our side. I am very pleased to share with you that activist, actress, producer, and director Salma Hayek has just agreed to be honoured as an m2m Patron, after recently visiting our sites in South Africa and witnessing first-hand the life-changing work of Mentor Mothers. You can read about her journey in the Daily Telegraph.
Salma joins long-time m2m supporter Annie Lennox, an internationally acclaimed human rights activist, and now officially an m2m Patron. Since Annie first visited an m2m site in 2009, she has been a tireless supporter of our organisation and advocate for our work.
With the support of these formidable Patrons, together with the tremendous dedication and compassion of m2m’s Mentor Mothers and partners like you, I am confident that on a World AIDS Day in the not too distant future, we will no longer have to talk about the work that lies ahead, but celebrate HIV-free generations while we continue to remember those we have loved and lost to a disease that will no longer create such tragedy. Until then, please continue to support us in any way you can, whether that is financially, by spreading the word about our work, or simply by speaking up about the power of women to end this pandemic once and for all.