mothers2mothers (m2m) has deepened its commitment to keeping mothers healthy and ensuring an end to pediatric AIDS in Tanzania with the launch of direct services in the East African nation. Thanks to the support from the United States President’s Fund for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), administered by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) under the RISE II mechanism, m2m has recruited, trained and deployed 35 Tanzanian women living with HIV as frontline health workers to ten sites in the Morogoro region.
These “Mother Champions” are serving pregnant and breastfeeding women living with HIV, ensuring that they access the treatment and other health services required to stay healthy and ensure they do not transmit HIV to their children. Adopting a family-centered approach, male partners are also targeted and encouraged to take HIV testing services, further mitigating the risk of mother-to-child transmission. Of course, accessing services and treatment initiation is only the first step of the journey. Mother Champions will also play a critical role in ensuring their clients are retained in care.
This development forms part of m2m’s technical assistance to PEPFAR implementing partners and will support prevention of mother-to-child transmission continuum of care across facilities and communities.
m2m expands into Direct Services in Tanzania
m2m expands into direct services in Tanzania at an important time, with the Global Goal to end the HIV/AIDS pandemic by 2030 less than a decade away. While the country has made significant strides in recent years, many obstacles remain to achieving this goal. According to UNAIDS1, women, adolescent girls and young women remain disproportionately affected in Tanzania due to poverty, lack of access to health services, and gender inequality. In 2019, 92% of pregnant women enrolled in prevention of mother-to-child transmission services, but poor retention rates among pregnant (67%) and lactating mothers (83%) remain a challenge, contributing to a mother-to-child transmission infection rate of 11%, against the global target of 5%.
m2m is familiar with Tanzanian realities. Just last year, m2m was asked by the Ministry of Health, Community Development, Gender, Elderly, and Children to provide technical assistance to adopt a national prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV Operational Framework.
m2m’s peer-based Mentor Mother Model has proven effective in overcoming similar challenges in other African nations. Initial findings indicate that local “Mother Champions” (as Mentor Mothers will be known in Tanzania) are poised to make an impact. In just the last few months, m2m have reached almost 500 women, children, and their male partners. Thirty-one group health talks were conducted with pregnant and breastfeeding women about the importance of HIV testing, pre- and post-test counselling, infant feeding, family planning, and postnatal care, reaching a total of 587 clients. A total of 57 HIV positive pregnant and breastfeeding women and 50 HIV-exposed children were enrolled in the program, and pre-screened for tuberculosis and nutritional deficiencies. A further 116 women with new pregnancies and 38 male partners were given pre-HIV testing education.
The move into direct service delivery has been welcomed by stakeholders. “We really appreciate m2m for the expertise they are bringing to Tanzania to ensure that we retain in care pregnant and breastfeeding mothers who are living with HIV and attain the desired outcomes towards an AIDS Free generation,” says Ministry of Health Representative—Dr. Mukome Nyamhagata.
“m2m has made a difference in improving relationships between Mother Champions and facility staff. This will strengthen the teamwork at sites,” says prevention of mother-to-child transmission Advisor for USAID Boresha Afya—Dr. Benedict Andrea.
We are grateful to the Government of Tanzania, PEPFAR, and USAID for their partnership and support to make this possible. We are committed to playing our part in creating a healthy, HIV-free future for all Tanzanians.