Improving access to HIV services for women and children in Malawi
Malawi is one of the world’s least developed and most densely populated countries, with a population approaching 17 million. An estimated 10% of the country’s adults between the ages of 15 and 49 are living with HIV and the majority of them are women.
Support from DFID’s UK Aid Direct global fund, aimed at supporting civil society organisations to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, has enabled mothers2mothers (m2m) to create an extensive footprint in Malawi, where an estimated 560,000 women aged 15 and over are living with HIV.
The essential health education and support that Mentor Mothers provide is critical to helping women cope with the shock and stress of learning that they are HIV-positive and are being put on a lifelong ARV treatment in a single visit to the health facility. Mentor Mothers continue to provide support to the women in the years that follow in order to help them stay on treatment, minimize the risk of transmission, and make healthy choices for their families.
Catherine Kassam, PMTCT Coordinator at the Malawi Ministry of Health, discussed the importance of Mentor Mothers and the role they play in creating a generation free from HIV:
The first time I heard about the mothers2mothers model, I was thinking maybe it would be a challenge. I thought the women [Mentor Mothers] would not be open enough to disclose their status. But after the training, I found them very open so that other women [clients] could cope. Mentor Mothers have helped a lot to assist other mothers to disclose their status, and we are seeing men getting involved in PMTCT. All facilities should have Mentor Mothers so that we can catch every community. And everyone in the community should know the importance of being tested. Those who are HIV-positive should start taking their ARVs, so that we can have a generation free of HIV.