“There are two things that are perhaps most important to the health and success of an NGO. First, the recognition of your work by an organization with a reputation for high standards and rigorous, comprehensive evaluation. And second, an infusion of unrestricted funding at a point in a nonprofit’s growth when it has the greatest potential to leverage pivotal change. In 2012, the Kravis Prize did both for mothers2mothers.”
Robin Smalley, Co-Founder of mothers2mothers
mothers2mothers (m2m) was established to prevent mother-to-child transmission of HIV through the education and support of pregnant women and new mothers living with HIV/AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa.
In 2001, Dr. Mitch Besser was assisting with the advancement of practices to reduce mother-to-child transmission of HIV and providing care to pregnant women living with HIV at the University of Cape Town’s Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology. He recognized the need for services that would support and educate these women, thus allowing them to make healthy choices for themselves and their babies. m2m opened its first location at Groote Schuur Hospital in Cape Town in October 2001.
By 2004, m2m had expanded to 31 different sites in South Africa. Over the next several years the organization and its founders — Besser, Gene Falk, and Robin Smalley — were recognized with several esteemed awards, including South Africa’s prestigious Impumeleo Innovation Award, the Presidential Citizens Medal, and social entrepreneur awards from the Skoll Foundation and the Schwab Foundation. Today m2m has more than 580 fully-staffed sites in nine countries and are continually expanding their reach to women in new countries and looking to move deeper into countries where they already currently operate.
Current Operations of mothers2mothers
In sub-Saharan Africa, there are not enough doctors, nurses, and social workers available at health care facilities to meet the needs of the high volume of patients. Health care providers are challenged to manage their clinical responsibilities, let alone to provide the social and emotional support needed as a part of comprehensive and effective HIV/AIDS care. mothers2mothers fills the gaps in this clinical model and supports these valuable health professionals in a low cost and high impact manner. mothers2mothers’ mission is to impact the health of mothers by putting them at the heart of improving reproductive, maternal, newborn, and child health.
The goals of m2m are threefold:
- To prevent babies from contracting HIV through mother-to-child transition.
- To keep mothers with HIV/AIDS alive and healthy by increasing their access to health-sustaining medical care.
- To empower mothers living with HIV/AIDS, enabling them to fight stigma in their communities and to live positive and productive lives.
Approach and Distinguishing Features
m2m’s comprehensive program for pregnant women and mothers living with HIV includes education and support around anti-retroviral treatment for the women and their babies. Working closely with doctors and nurses as paid members of the health care team, m2m’s “Mentor Mothers” assist women by providing the education and support necessary to increase access and adherence to lifesaving interventions. Living with HIV themselves, the Mentor Mothers are rigorously trained and paid, which benefits not only their respective families but also the community as a whole.
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