Monday was the 4th of July in the United States, and we can’t think of a better time to celebrate our partnership with one of mothers2mothers’ (m2m) longest standing, most valued donors—the U.S. government. The U.S. government has supported m2m for 16 years with funding from the U.S. President’s Emergency Fund for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), through United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Their support of our peer-based model plays a vital role in building health and greater independence for the women, children, adolescents, and families we serve.
m2m celebrates PEPFAR partnership
This resilience is fostered in so many ways. Through PEPFAR’s support of our model, we have created opportunities for hundreds of thousands of women and families to take more control of their health and future by supporting them to overcome barriers to accessing healthcare and get the care and treatment they need. Our model contributes to greater independence for women living with HIV, who are employed by m2m to deliver health and support services as frontline health workers. The employment empowers women to have a bigger voice in their homes and communities, which is critical in societies and cultures where decisions about women’s health and lives are largely determined by men. U.S. funding also enables m2m to provide large-scale technical assistance to enhance the capacity of governments to achieve global HIV/AIDS targets, ensuring independent national ownership of programmes in the future.
m2m’s partnership with the U.S. government started with our first funding from PEPFAR in 2005, and our first direct grant in 2006 from USAID through the New Partners Initiative. That early support enabled us to deepen our geographic footprint and bring our peer-based model—which initially focused on delivering services to prevent mother-to-child transmission of HIV (PMTCT) and keeping mothers living with HIV healthy and alive—to new countries, including Kenya, Rwanda, and Zambia.
Today, PEPFAR provides significant support for our work in seven countries in sub-Saharan Africa—Angola, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, South Africa, Tanzania, and Zambia. While their funding still supports our services to prevent mother to child transmission of HIV (PMTCT) and bring our model to new countries (most recently, Angola and Tanzania), they also now fund a broad range of services to help strengthen the health of children, adolescents, families and even health systems. For example—for children and adolescents, this includes improving the health, well-being, and resilience of orphans and other vulnerable children and adolescents (OVCA) exposed to, living with, or made vulnerable by HIV/AIDS, and promoting early testing of infants exposed to HIV. For families, they support our work with index client tracing and testing—which involves seeking permission to test the partners and children of their pregnant and breastfeeding clients who are living with HIV and supporting them to access treatment if positive. Our partnership also strengthens the capacity of under-resourced health systems by employing nurses to bring clinical services to remote communities and training Mentor Mothers to deliver clinical services (Lesotho), and builds the capacity of governments to design and implement Mentor Mother programmes (Mozambique, Angola, and Tanzania).
We are so grateful for the faith the U.S. government has put in our model over so many years. Their support has played an instrumental role in helping us scale our programme—reaching a total of 12M women and children under age two and creating jobs for more than 11,000 women living with HIV since our founding. We have also achieved virtual elimination of mother-to-child transmission of HIV among our enrolled clients for six consecutive years, with a transmission rate of just 1.9% in 2019, well below the UN benchmark of 5%. Together, we are creating healthy, thriving families and communities throughout Africa, and working to make the goal of an HIV-free generation a reality.
Below is a snapshot of m2m’s diverse range of programming that PEPFAR currently supports, through projects administered by both USAID and CDC:
Angola: m2m has been working to support the Government of Angola since 2019 through innovative, scalable solutions to achieve an AIDS-free generation, and end preventable child and maternal deaths. Our work is supported by PEPFAR through USAID’s Reducing Infections through Support and Education (RISE) II funding mechanism, which enables country missions to “buy in” to receive tailored m2m support in their nations. One focus of this work is Index Case Tracing and Testing—where Mentor Mothers seek permission to test the partners and children of their pregnant and breastfeeding clients who are living with HIV and support them to access treatment if positive. Mentor Mothers are also trained to deliver HIV tests at all of our sites—an important step in bringing trusted care closer to communities. We originally launched our programme in two provinces (Lunda Sul and Benguela) and, early this year, we partnered with USAID to expand our services to a third province (Cunene), bringing the total of Mentor Mothers we employ in Angola to 75 at 14 sites. In addition, we provide technical assistance to the Angolan Ministry of Health and the Instituto Nacional de Luta Contra o SIDA (INLS).
Lesotho: Among the work funded by USAID’s RISE II mechanism in Lesotho, m2m began employing clinical nurses for the first time last year in order to ease the burden on the country’s stretched health infrastructure. The nurses work alongside Mentor Mothers in two of the districts where we provide services (Mafeteng and Mohale’s Hoek) to provide comprehensive antenatal and postnatal services to pregnant and breastfeeding mothers living with HIV in rural areas. The nurses offer a range of clinical services, including home-based screening for HIV and pregnancy, initiation on antiretroviral treatment and refills, dispensing family planning advice and supplies, and infant HIV testing.
Malawi: In another first, m2m Malawi began recruiting and employing men living with HIV in 2018 as Expert Clients, as part of our adapted peer support approach for special key populations living with HIV. This project is funded through a subaward from the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation (EGPAF) through their CDC grant. Currently, 270 male and female Expert Clients are working in 98 clinics to support others in their community to access health services in order to stay healthy, on treatment, to achieve viral suppression, and to reduce their partner’s risk of infection.
Mozambique: m2m’s work in Mozambique that is funded by the U.S. Government, through both the CDC and USAID, includes the provision of technical assistance to the Ministry of Health (Ministério da Saúde or MISAU) and NGOs. m2m provides technical assistance to strengthen implementation of a revised Mães para Mães (MpM) strategy, and to support MISAU in its national roll out. m2m also provides technical assistance to MISAU and implementing partners to improve the MpM curriculum, training, tools, structures, policies, and implementation, and integrate the Mentor Mother Model into provincial health systems. We are also supporting the development of a robust monitoring and evaluation system.
South Africa: Among the support we receive from the U.S. government for our work in South Africa, USAID selected m2m to deliver a major project to reduce HIV incidence and improve health, well-being, and resilience for orphans and other vulnerable children and adolescents (OVCA) exposed to, living with, or made vulnerable by HIV/AIDS, in rural districts in Mpumalanga, South Africa. The project—called Children and Adolescents Are My Priority (CHAMP)—is funded by a five-year award under PEPFAR and employs 130 Family Mentors and 100 DREAMS Facilitators at 16 Sites. In close partnership with the provincial Departments of Social Development and Health, m2m and its partners identify OVCAs and ensure that they get them into care to receive medication and comprehensive ongoing support they need.