“Providing health services in an integrated way is the best thing to do for Community Health Workers and for our clients. It is time-saving and economical for them as they access all services in one visit. It reduces missed appointments, and helps with retention in care. Furthermore, it also helps us find, and better serve, people with HIV, who may seek care for another health issue and then be persuaded to test.”
That was the key message that Limpho Nteko, m2m Spokeswoman from Lesotho, delivered last week to delegates at the 24th International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2022) in Montreal, Canada, On Sunday 31st of July, well over 100 delegates joined mothers2mothers (m2m) for an important and insightful satellite session, kindly supported by Gilead Sciences Europe Ltd, on the topic of “Innovation In Integration: How People-Powered Services Can End AIDS and Deliver Universal Health Coverage”.
Innovation In Integration: How People-Powered Services Can End AIDS and Deliver Universal Health Coverage
Speakers from m2m, UNICEF, and VillageReach shone a spotlight on the people-powered models, such as the m2m Mentor Mother Model, that are delivering remarkable results in HIV and Primary Health Care, openly sharing successes and challenges.
Shombi Ellis, m2m Country Director for South Africa, kicked-off the session outlining how integrated services, delivered at scale, that keep people in care, are the “holy grail” for those who design, deliver, and fund work that aims to end the HIV/AIDS pandemic. Shombi also reminded us that, as a result, the purpose and potential of integrated service delivery cannot be overstated, especially as the “successful delivery at scale is essential not only to end HIV/AIDS but also to make Universal Health Coverage a reality by 2030.”
Insight from the Frontlines
Sharing her own experience as a frontline health worker, and as a woman living with HIV supporting her community to improve their health and well-being, Limpho Nteko, m2m Spokeswoman from Lesotho, also highlighted the vital and urgent role that community involvement and leadership plays in this. Limpho said: “To me, it’s clear: strong healthcare is delivered through people—especially when those people are from the same community and have shared experiences. I am a testimony of that—I am healthy because people took the time to educate me on my health; people delivered and connected me to the health services I needed; people followed up with me when I didn’t.”
Few healthcare professional groups illustrate this point as well as Community Health Workers, such as m2m Mentor Mothers. Rebecca Alban, Health Systems Manager at VillageReach, highlighted their vital contribution, especially most recently during the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, while also reminding us of the significant structural challenges that they still face: “We simply cannot integrate services or leverage the full potential of Community Health Workers if they are not properly compensated, supported, and provided with the educational and material tools that they need to deliver their important work”.
Models of Integrated Service Delivery
Turning to the successful delivery of integrated services, Dorothy Mbori-Ngacha, Senior HIV Specialist at UNICEF, reminded us that this model significantly contributes to retention and better health outcomes and diagnosis, highlighting m2m’s Mentor Mother Model as an example of integration and impact that puts us on the right track to meet the goals of UNAIDS’ Global AIDS Strategy: “I have no hesitation in
supporting mothers2mothers and their model—not because they are our partners and friends—but because you have seen the data. m2m’s model works to deliver health outcomes for mothers and their children, and it needs to be scaled further across Africa and beyond”.
Nakululombe Kwendeni, m2m Senior Technical Advisor, Reproductive, Maternal, Newborn and Child Health, explained that, for m2m, successful integration involves two key components: “The integration of how we deliver our services; and the integration of what services we deliver. And at the centre of both: the peer-to-peer, client-centred care provided by Mentor Mothers.”
‘Innovation In Integration’ in Practice
Showing an example of an integrated services model that works, Lazola Makupula, Senior Strategic Information Lead at m2m, introduced participants to a recent m2m pilot focused on the integration of Non-Communicable Diseases with HIV services in the Western Cape:
“We wanted to see if our model could be used to integrate areas beyond HIV, and indeed, the results were very positive. At the outset of the project, all enrolled clients had uncontrolled diabetes and/or hypertension. Six months later, the baseline readings of blood pressure of 175.9 over 139.9 had dropped to 81.3 over 107, bringing the average levels to a point where they are considered controlled. With regards to diabetes, average readings at baseline were 10.5, while at 6 months this had decreased to 8.8. Throughout all of this, we found that m2m Mentor Mothers were a vital link in reaching, engaging and retaining our clients. And, in helping them take care of their own health and lifestyles. “
And that is exactly why—if we are serious about ending AIDS by 2030—we must continue to design and deliver integrated services that legitimately include meaningful community involvement and leadership!
Thank You to Our Partners
A huge thank you to everyone who attended and participated in our session. A special mention to our wonderful partners at Gilead Sciences Europe Ltd. Without their support none of this would have been possible. This is only the start of this important discussion. Sign up to our newsletter as we unveil more in this area in the coming months.