COVID-19 Project Overview
COVID-19 is majorly impacting the accessibility of healthcare in South Africa. Patients are often anxious to visit health facilities due to fear of exposure to the virus, and transportation can be difficult because of lockdowns. This lack of healthcare is of particular concern for those living with HIV who, if not on effective treatment, are at greater risk from the coronavirus because of their immunocompromised health status.
The mothers2mothers (m2m) team is drawing on its decades of experience fighting the HIV/AIDS pandemic and close ties to communities to ensure women and children can continue accessing lifesaving health education and services during these times.
As a mother of two living with HIV, the COVID-19 pandemic has brought challenges. It is frightening to go to the health facility to fetch my medication because of fear of contracting the coronavirus, but with the help and motivation that I get from Mother Mentors like Velna, I know how to protect myself and my kids.Fikile, m2m Client
How it Helps
Founded in South Africa in 2001, m2m provides lifesaving services each year to more than 1 million people living with HIV across Africa. The organization also employs 1,700 women living with HIV as community health workers called Mentor Mothers, who work both in local health facilities and go door to door to visit clients in their communities. Residing in the same community as their clients, Mentor Mothers empower the whole family to not only access and begin HIV care but remain consistent with their treatment.
In 2018, 94 percent of m2m clients living with HIV adhered to their treatment more than 95 percent of the time. In times of COVID-19, Mother Mentors expanded services offered to their clients to include coronavirus education and treatment referrals.
The m2m team is making a big impact in the fight against COVID-19 because of its close relationships with communities and ability to quickly spread accurate information. Mentor Mothers are designated as essential workers and continue to deliver health services and education during lockdowns. They promote available treatment for HIV and for other health issues that increase the risk of COVID-19 complications, relieving the burden on doctors and nurses at understaffed health centers.
The organization is also finding creative ways of ensuring clients stay connected to their Mentor Mothers. The team accelerated the development of the “Virtual Mentor Mother” platform – a WhatsApp-based interactive service where clients can efficiently receive vital health information and service referrals. Mentor Mothers also call clients to remind them of appointments and help arrange their treatment at nearby facilities. In some rural areas, Mentor Mothers deliver medication to their clients. When consultations are held in person, social distancing with PPE is in place to keep both clients and Mentor Mothers safe.
The m2m model improves health of communities while delivering meaningful employment for women living with HIV. That work began before COVID-19 and continues even in these unprecedented times.