“The dream of ending mother-to-child transmission of HIV in Mozambique can become a reality, if we can collaborate to find ways to keep women and families in care for longer.”
That was the clear consensus this week in Maputo, as key public health stakeholders gathered for mothers2mothers’ (m2m) official launch in Mozambique. m2m announced an exciting new strategic partnership with the Mozambiqan Health Ministry (MISAU) to bolster the country’s efforts to eliminate paediatric AIDS and reach global goals. m2m will roll out its Mentor Mother Model—through which HIV-positive women help expectant mothers and breastfeeding women to avoid passing the virus on to their children—across the country, through a blend of direct service delivery, by partnering with other NGOs, and by providing technical assistance. An initial $6m in funding over a two-year period is being provided by the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), administered through the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).
m2m President and CEO Frank Beadle de Palomo and Dra. Pascoa Wate, Head of Maternal & Child Health Department at MISAU, shared this news at a gathering on 31 January attended by more than 80 government officials and policy makers, NGOs, activists, media representatives, and other public health professionals. Following their remarks, Frank and Dra. Pascoa were joined on stage by Dra. Jessica Cowan Greenberg (CDC) and Dra. Argentina Wate (USAID) for an in-depth discussion—moderated by m2m Mozambique Country Director Ilda Kuleba—on the country’s progress in preventing mother-to-child transmission of HIV, the ambitious goals that the U.S. government has set to eliminate paediatric AIDS in Mozambique, and how m2m will support these efforts.
Dra. Pascoa shared that Mozambique is one of the countries worst affected by the epidemic. Estimates suggest that around one in eight Mozambicans is living with HIV and 130,000 pregnant women are in need of antiretrovirals. The country has made progress in reducing infections among children, and increasing the number of women and couples testing for HIV and HIV-positive pregnant women on ARVs. Yet like many resource-limited countries, Mozambique struggles with retaining HIV-positive pregnant women and new mothers in care, which has resulted in an increased risk of HIV transmission during the breastfeeding period and lower rates of testing among HIV-exposed infants.
“This can change. In countries facing similar challenges to Mozambique, mothers2mothers has achieved virtual elimination of paediatric AIDS for the past three years in a row among our enrolled clients,” Frank told the audience. “In 2016, mother-to-child transmission rates among women enrolled in our programme were on average 1.6% at the 18 to 24 month HIV test. That is well below the 5% mark established by UNAIDS for virtual elimination, and provides great progress towards the SDG of eliminating HIV by 2030.”
The panelists also discussed how as part of the national strategy to combat HIV, Mozambique has operated Maes para Maes (MpM), a community support programme for HIV-positive mothers which contains elements of m2m’s Mentor Mother Model, since 2010. To help Mozambique eliminate paediatric AIDS and meet global goals, PEPFAR and MISAU are collaborating to revitalise the MpM strategy, with m2m invited to help bolster its efficacy.
Frank described how—working in close collaboration with MISAU, Jhpiego, and other partners—m2m will initially provide Mentor Mother services in 24 high-volume health facilities, including in the provinces of Zambezia and Sofala, which have among the highest rates of HIV in the country. m2m Mentor Mothers will work in these facilities and the surrounding communities, visiting women and families at home who have not accessed medical care or who have dropped out of treatment, and linking them to Mentor Mothers at the health facilities. In addition to direct service delivery, our technical assistance and implementation will include developing robust curriculum, training, and monitoring and evaluation tools to help MISAU and other partners strengthen MpM.
“mothers2mothers has a long track record of working as a trusted partner to governments and NGOs to end paediatric AIDS,” Frank said. “We have seen our Mentor Mother Model become national policy in nations including South Africa and Kenya. Now, we look forward to sharing this knowledge and expertise with our colleagues in Mozambique to ensure the vision of an HIV-free generation becomes a reality.”
We would like to thank everyone who helped to make this launch a success. Now, the hard work begins. We are looking forward to working with our partners in Mozambique, and helping women and families stay healthy and thrive to build the future of this incredible country!
For more information on m2m’s programme in Mozambique, click here.