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Bringing hope to mothers in Africa

(Editor’s note: this post was contributed by Gene Falk, co-founder and CEO of mothers2mothers ( HP and mothers2mothers today announced a new partnership to help prevent the transmission of HIV from HIV-positive pregnant mothers in Africa to their children. Similar to the partnership announced last November with the Clinton Health Access Initiative (CHAI) which reduced turnaround time for HIV test results for babies in Kenya, the partnership with mothers2mothers is part of HP’s focus on global health by the Office of Social Innovation.)


Each year in the United States, 100 babies are born with HIV.  In Africa, 1,000 babies are born with HIV every day.  Despite the fact that medical treatment and tests are increasingly available throughout Africa, we are still faced with staggeringly high figures of mother-to-child HIV transmission. There are more than 1.3 million pregnant women living with HIV in Africa, and without any interventions, 40 percent of those women will have HIV-positive babies.


Preventing the transmission of HIV from a mother-to-child is straightforward.  A single dose of medication to a mother during labor, and a dose to her infant shortly after birth – can cut transmission rates nearly in half.

Our story

Imagine this scenario...


Somewhere in Africa, a young woman is on her way to a clinic. She’s happy and excited -- she is pregnant with her first child.  She sees a doctor, who confirms the good news.  Then, he asks:  do you know you have HIV? For him, it’s a straightforward question.  But what she hears is: I have AIDS. I’m going to die.  My baby is going to die.


After that, no matter what the doctor can say in the short time he has to spend with her, nothing registers. Facts about care and treatment, health and survival, are overwhelmed by fear, not only of the virus itself but of the very real consequences of the stigma that accompanies it. Instead of accessing the treatment that can ensure her wellbeing and her baby’s health, she leaves feeling bewildered about her options, and hopeless and terrified about the future.  She keeps her status a secret and never returns to the clinic. Her odds and her baby’s odds are grim.


mothers2mothers (m2m) helps to prevent scenarios such as this using an effective, sustainable model of care.  m2m employs mothers living with HIV to provide education and support to the HIV-positive pregnant and new mothers at health facilities.


mothers2mothersIt’s based on the simplest of concepts:  a woman talking to another woman.  But it’s designed to meet all of the challenges pregnant women and new mothers face in the resource-challenged health systems in Sub Saharan Africa.  These Mentor Mothers, as we call them,  work side-by-side with doctors and nurses, relying on their own experience  to break through the barriers that prevent their peers from accessing  treatment and care, and on  the extensive training we provide to support and educate women just like themselves that HIV is anything but a death sentence.


Growing pains

Over the past nine years we have grown from one site in South Africa to more than 700 locations across 9 countries, reaching nearly 300,000 HIV-positive pregnant women and new mothers. 


In tandem with this network of Mentor Mothers, we have built the systems to support their work and all of the other demands of a rapidly-growing organization. But the diverse solutions that evolved to collect and analyse data couldn’t keep pace with our growing need for information on a timely basis.  Our client data is still captured in paper-based system that not only made reporting difficult, but we could only scratch the surface of the valuable data in our hands.


We knew we were looking for an information system not uncommon in the private sector but usually only a pipe dream for organization like ours. Fortunately, as we began to search for solutions, we also began conversations with HP.


Our work with HP

Because of the unique way HP has set up its Global Social Innovation program, we are able to receive services we could never afford to pay for. HP assigned a project team made up of specialists from across their organization to work with us to identify our needs and create a solution specifically for us.


With the new system from HP, we are able to transform our paper-based system to a digital one. More accurate and timely information means we can provide better care, to every client. It also allows us to integrate program data with financial and HR data, giving us significant metrics on a timely basis so we can run our organization more efficiently and dedicate more resources to helping mothers and babies.


The project to transform our system represents a huge step forward for m2m.  And it marks only the first step in HP’s plans to help us reach more women, more quickly and effectively.  With HP’s help, we are already anticipating a mobile and cloud-based model, which will put critical real-time information directly in the hands of our Mentor Mothers wherever they are.

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