From patient to mentor: Eliminating mother-to-child transmission of HIV in Nigeria

{Photo credit: Aor Ikyaabo/MSH}Binta Ejo addresses USAID General Counsel Craig Wolf during a visit in October 2019. “I want to thank the American people who, through USAID, saved me and my girls with the continuum of HIV services at Usmanu Danfodiyo University Teaching Hospital. We are grateful.”Photo credit: Aor Ikyaabo/MSH

Binta Ejo was diagnosed with HIV in 2006. As a young, single woman, she struggled to cope with her diagnosis but listened when her sister encouraged her to seek treatment. Today, she is the proud mother to three-year-old twin girls, born HIV-free, and works as an HIV case manager at the same hospital that helped her live positively with HIV. This transformation took place after she joined a support group meeting at the Usmanu Danfodiyo University Teaching Hospital (UDUTH) in Sokoto, Northwest Nigeria. 

Binta’s support group became a source of strength. Sharing her experiences with peers and others who were HIV positive helped her remain adherent to treatment. She began working as a volunteer at UDUTH after seeing the benefits of HIV care and treatment services in her own life. She also met her husband at a support group meeting.

In 2016, Binta learned she was pregnant with twins. She was scared of infecting her babies, but she knew that if she took her medications and followed her doctors’ advice, she and her babies could thrive. She went to the hospital to enroll in antenatal care. She is one of nearly half a million women in Sokoto to have benefitted from prevention of mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT) services through the US President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) and USAID-funded Care and Treatment for Sustained Support (CaTSS) Project.

With the goal to eliminate mother-to-child transmission of HIV in project-supported sites, CaTSS conducted supportive supervisory, mentoring, and coaching visits to health facilities in the five project states to improve the delivery of equitable and client-centered prevention of mother-to-child transmission services to HIV-positive pregnant or breastfeeding women and their infants. Between 2016 and 2019, 415,624 pregnant women who attended antenatal care in supported health facilities were provided with HIV testing services and learned their HIV status the same day. Of the newly identified HIV-positive pregnant women, 97.3% were started on antiretroviral treatment (ART) to prevent mother-to-child transmission. 

 “This has been my greatest achievement in life… my girls! Having benefited from the PMTCT services offered by the CaTSS project, I am now a strong advocate. More women can deliver HIV-free babies in Sokoto state, and Nigeria as a whole.” – Binta Ejo

Binta has become not only an advocate but also a role model for others living with HIV in Sokoto. She is a Mentor Mother and case manager trained under the CaTSS Project, sharing her story with other HIV-positive pregnant women with the overarching goal of eliminating mother-to-child transmission of HIV.