mothers2mothers: Helping mothers save babies

Despite the increasing availability of effective interventions, the HIV epidemic in sub- Saharan Africa continues to devastate HIV+ mothers and their babies.


Prevent mother-to-child transmission of the HIV virus in Africa

The idea

Hire HIV+ mothers as peer counselors focused on good pre-and-post-natal care and the prevention of maternal-child transmission of HIV

How it works

  • Recruit and employ exemplary HIV+ mothers to serve as “Mentor Mothers”
  • Train Mentor Mothers in the best practices and interventions for preventing the transmission of HIV from mother to child
  • In group and 1:1 sessions Mentor Mothers work side-by-side with doctors and nurses to ensure that patients understand and adhere to prescribed interventions

How it will go to scale

Via governments. m2m integrates with existing government health care systems and clinics.

Progress so far

International scale up: m2m operates in 7 countries and enrolls ~ 200,000 new clients annually

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Mother-to-Child transmission of HIV/AIDs is almost entirely preventable and in the western world pediatric AIDS has been virtually eliminated.

In stark contrast, millions of babies still die from HIV/AIDS related illnesses in sub-Saharan Africa. This is because there is limited knowledge about how the virus is transmitted, stigma and discrimination often prevent women from getting tested and treated, and overwhelmed medical clinics cannot provide the follow-up and support that these mothers need. In 2001 Dr. Mitch Besser found a simple solution: train and hire HIV+ moms to teach and mentor other HIV+ moms, ensuring that they can and will access life-saving treatment for their babies and themselves. This new tier of paid, professionalized health care providers closes critical gaps in health care delivery – and at a low cost. Started in South Africa by Besser and co-founders Gene Falk and Robin Smalley, mothers2mothers now works in 7 African countries, employs 1400 Mentor Mothers and enrolls over 200,000 pregnant women in their program each year.

A compelling problem

Despite the increasing availability of effective interventions, the HIV epidemic in sub- Saharan Africa continues to devastate HIV+ mothers and their babies.

A scalable solution

Mulago assesses scalability based on five characteristics common to efforts that have taken lasting impact to scale.

Real impact: Using 2011 data from 12-18 month m2m client cohorts and a validated CDC/WHO model that estimates MTCT rates, m2m found that there was a 9% average transmission rate across all of their sites. While comparable country level data is not available, PEPFAR recently estimated a 19% transmission rate for all women receiving ARVs. Other global estimates of transmission rates in low resource settings are often >25%.

Cost-effective: Using the same impact data above, m2m spent a total of ~$600 in program expenses per HIV infection averted.

Lasting behavior: When mothers are involved in mentoring other HIV+ women, the data indicates that both mothers and babies are much more likely to receive and take their anti-retroviral treatment.

Easy replication: The m2m model is simple and adaptable. Using a mix of 3 different strategies, the model is currently scaling in 7 countries.

A viable route to scale: m2m is beginning a transition from a direct implementer to an organization focused on getting Ministries of Health and /or NGO’s to replicate their model at high quality.

Capacity to deliver

mothers2mothers is led by an exceptional team that includes, CEO Frank Beadle de Palomo, and Co-Founders Dr. Mitch Besser and Robin Smalley. Together, these three individuals bring together(remove) an unusual combination of experience in public health, business management and communications. They have built a well-known and widely trusted brand and are doing an excellent job of managing the transition to an advocacy and technical support organization.

updated June 2013