On a sunny Monday morning just a couple of weeks ago, a group of London mothers - invited by the incredible Molly Gunn (aka Selfish Mother) - stood rapt as Emma France, European Director of the charity mothers2mothers, talked to us about mother-to-child HIV transmission. We generally think of ourselves as (relatively) well informed. But Emma's powerful talk reminded us how little we know about so many things, not least that - with the right tools and education - mother-to-child HIV transmission is utterly preventable.
While tremendous progress has been made over the last decade to eliminate paediatric AIDS, more than 400 babies are still infected with HIV globally each day. About 75% of these children live in sub-Saharan Africa, and most acquire HIV from their mothers during pregnancy, childbirth, and breastfeeding.
It’s unacceptable… it’s tragic… because it’s almost entirely preventable.
Effective and inexpensive medical interventions are available that can keep mothers and babies healthy. Without these interventions, up to 40% of infants born to HIV-positive mothers will contract the virus. With treatment, that number can be reduced to 2%.
However, most health centres in sub-Saharan Africa are severely understaffed which leaves doctors and nurses with only minutes to give a pregnant woman her HIV diagnosis and explain all of the drugs and tests she needs to keep herself healthy and protect her baby from HIV. The stigma of HIV that is prevalent in many African communities causes women to live in fear, making it difficult for them to get the care they need.
mothers2mothers (m2m) is changing that by training, employing and empowering local mothers living with HIV, called Mentor Mothers, as frontline healthcare workers. Mentor Mothers provide essential health education and support to women on how they can protect their babies from HIV infection, and keep themselves and their families healthy. Not only do m2m's programmes have the power to virtually eliminate mother-to-child transmission of HIV, they also have a hugely positive impact on the Mentor Mothers themselves, both financially and psychologically.
It's so easy in our bubbles to sweat the small stuff - and some of us have big stuff to sweat as well. But, ostracism from our communities and a baby very sick with something utterly preventable generally aren't on the list. As mothers in the UK, we have the power to stand side by side with these African mothers and together put an end to mother-to-child HIV transmission.
Wear a Tee: Selfish Mother's #GoodTees raise £15 per sweatshirt and £10 per T-shirt to charity. Their MAMA and WONDER WOMEN designs support mothers2mothers.
Host a Brunch or Tea: There's nothing like your girl gang, as we discovered at the m2m WONDER WOMEN brunch. Why not host your own?
Get more involved: m2m have so many ways to fundraise or get more involved. Head to their site to find out how.