Emma France on the fight to eliminate paediatric AIDS
What is the mothers2mothers vision?
In sub-Saharan Africa, HIV is still a leading cause of maternal death and expecting mothers struggle to access quality healthcare. mothers2mothers (m2m) unlocks the potential of women to eliminate paediatric AIDS and create healthy families. Our work is driven by the amazing 1,600 Mentor Mothers we train and employ every year – HIV-positive women who work tirelessly in their communities and at health facilities to ensure women and their families get the health advice, services and medication they need.
How long have you been working at the charity? What was your route in and why do you love it?
I joined m2m more than seven years ago now. I was previously a project finance lawyer and financed major infrastructure projects but realised that my true calling was in preventable issues and particularly in working with charities that could create the most change. So I retrained and started by offering my services to anyone that would have me, later spending years advising charities around strategy and change.
And then I came across m2m – I started the European office in 2011 and last year took responsibility for our global strategic partnerships.
Can you tell us more about the Mentor Mother model?
Our Mentor Mothers are the reason I get out of bed every day. I’ve been lucky enough to have met some of them and their strength and resilience is simply astounding. They embody what health and hope looks like, and in 2016 alone, along with our partners, they reached almost two million children, women, adolescents and men, and virtually eliminated mother-to-child transmission of HIV among our enrolled clients. The model is so successful because these women have experienced what their clients are going through – they are armed with the knowledge of how it feels to be in their shoes and are trustworthy because they are from their community. It’s a simple, but incredibly effective, model of sisterhood.
This year’s International Women’s Day celebrated Urban and rural activists. How significant was that for the charity?
It was incredibly significant as Mentor Mothers embodied this theme so perfectly – they really are everyday urban and rural activists, who work in their local health clinics and go out into their communities to seek out vulnerable clients. We celebrate them in our work every day, but this year’s International Women’s Day was the perfect way to get others involved in this celebration and recognition. They really are our Wonder Women!
How has paediatric AIDS improved in latter years in sub-Saharan Africa?
We have come such a long way with regards to paediatric AIDS. In 2001, approximately 1,500 babies were infected with HIV every day – the majority of whom were in sub-Saharan Africa – compared to more than 200 babies nowadays. But that number is still too high. The UN has set targets of eliminating AIDS and of ensuring healthy lives for all at all ages by 2030. So we can’t, and won’t, stop until every baby and family thrives and has a healthy and bright future.