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Highlighting World Diabetes Day

Today is World Diabetes Day—a day dedicated to increasing awareness of diabetes management and prevention. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the prevalence of diabetes has nearly doubled since 1980, with an estimated 24 million people living with the noncommunicable disease (NCD) in the African region in 2021. With this year’s theme focused on “Access to Diabetes Care”, mothers2mothers (m2m) has been increasingly supporting the communities we work with across sub-Saharan Africa to ensure screenings and treatment for diabetes and other primary health care services are more accessible to vulnerable women and their families.

This is critical because NCDs like diabetes and hypertension are prevalent in settings of marginalisation or poverty, and HIV infection increases the risk of many NCDs. To address the growing health needs of the community, Mentor Mothers—women living with HIV employed by m2m as community health workers—at m2m’s Innovation Hub based at the Ikhwezi Community Health Centre in Cape Town, are trained to conduct screenings for diabetes and hypertension, and to provide education and support to clients living with HIV, bridging the gap between integrated primary health- and HIV care.

Paalina Maarman—a 36-year-old mother of two living in Cape Town, South Africa—is one of the m2m clients who has benefitted from these services. Living with diabetes and facing unemployment, Paalina’s challenges were compounded by the distance she had to travel to access healthcare. However, Community Mentor Mothers like Millicent Magwa, have made a significant difference in her life. Millicent visits her home regularly to check her blood-sugar levels, blood pressure, and provides her with one-on-one education and support, helping her manage her diabetes through exercise and a healthy diet.

Paalina Maarman with her daugter, Caia.

“The support I get from the m2m Mentor Mothers is very important to me. Sometimes we tend to neglect our health, but when you have a Mentor Mother who supports you, you always make sure you take your medicine and practice what they have been teaching you,” Paalina shares.

“I have learned through conversations with Millicent and my doctor at the clinic that I must stick to a healthy diet. I have cut out alcohol and smoking. In the beginning, it was scary, and it was difficult to follow this new routine…but I am grateful because now I am happier and healthier.”

Paalina’s story shows the need for better integration of health education, support, treatment, and prevention for diabetes and other primary health services. m2m’s proven peer-based model enables us to accomplish this and we remain committed to supporting more clients like Paalina in their fight against diabetes and HIV.

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