Over the next five years, mothers2mothers (m2m) community health workers will be offering an expanded range of health services to their clients. This step will help address their evolving and increasingly complex health needs. One of the areas where we will be deepening our work is tuberculosis (TB).
TB is the main cause of death among people living with HIV, accounting for around one third of AIDS-related deaths globally, despite it being preventable and treatable. Indeed, while TB can affect anyone, anywhere, the probability of developing TB disease is 18 times higher among people living with HIV. Without treatment, nearly all people with TB who are living with HIV will die. This is compared to 45% of HIV-negative people who develop TB.
With nearly 60% of the estimated global HIV-related TB cases not diagnosed and not treated, an effective TB response therefore requires testing and adherence to treatment…just like HIV! It is only by knowing one’s TB status and having the support to navigate and understand the treatment options if the test comes back positive, that individuals can live a healthy life—especially if they are living with the compounding condition of HIV. Effective TB treatment will also help ensure that the disease is not further transmitted. This will reduce the impact on the community.
That is why, as part of m2m’s 2022-2026 Strategic Plan, Mentor Mothers will increasingly:
- Educate clients about symptoms and risks of TB, especially those living with HIV,
- Refer clients with symptoms for testing,
- Support those who test positive to follow and adhere to treatment.
By working with allied health professionals, m2m will be able to ensure that rapid and accurate diagnoses are made for all family members, treatment is dispensed, and recovery is more easily achieved through support for treatment adherence.
Additional services and approaches to address TB—including through mHealth—will also be piloted and scaled during this period.
Gorrete Banda, a Mentor Mother Team Leader at the Kapata Health Centre in Zambia, explains why this work is important:
“If our clients are living with HIV, their defense mechanism will be quite weak. This means that if they contract TB, they might transmit it to their loved ones and those around them, or even die if not properly treated. As a Mentor Mother, it is my responsibility to educate my clients on TB, its dangers, how it can be prevented, and how to cure it.
Being a Mentor Mother who has experienced the same situations as my clients, and who experienced TB, it really inspires me to be able to comfort and encourage others through their challenging times. With TB, I know how painful it can be and I wouldn’t want my clients to go through the same thing.”