So That No Child Be Born with HIV: Ethiopia

 {Photo credit: Genaye Eshetu/MSH.}Teberih Tsegay, Almaz Haile, Jember Alemayehu, and Yeshi Derebew, of Korem Town, Ethiopia.Photo credit: Genaye Eshetu/MSH.

"Some years back there was no one to teach us, so we gave birth to HIV-positive children. But now we can teach others so no child will be born with the virus," says Jember, a mother mentor at Korem Health Center in Tigray, Ethiopia.

Four HIV-positive women, Teberih Tsegay, Almaz Haile, Jember Alemayehu, and Yeshi Derebew, envisioning that no child be born with HIV in their town, started to work as mother mentors at Korem Health Center to achieve their vision.

Korem Health Center is one of the health centers supported by the USAID Ethiopia Network for HIV/AIDS Treatment, Care and Support (ENHAT-CS) program, a US President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) funded initiative led by Management Sciences for Health (MSH).

As of August 2013, the mother mentors have graduated over 50 HIV-positive mothers who have completed a year of peer group sessions. The mother mentor facilitated sessions, held in an informal setting with a coffee ceremony that fosters open discussion, teach HIV-positive mothers about family planning, prevention of mother to child transmission (PMTCT), exclusive breast feeding, safe condom use and other HIV related subjects.

The mother mentors are also currently teaching 71 people living with HIV, of whom 26 are pregnant mothers, 25 breastfeeding mothers, and 20 husbands of the women receiving training. Training is provided separately to each of these groups during weekday sessions, with all coming together on Fridays for open discussion with health care providers.

The mother mentors also follow up on HIV-positive pregnant mothers who come to the health facility for treatment. If one from the town misses her PMTCT appointment, they walk to her house to advise her to continue her treatment. If one is from a rural area, they send a letter to the district health office to have their staff visit the pregnant mother to encourage her to return for treatment.

According to the mother mentors, since they started working in 2010, there was only one HIV-positive children born in Korem Town. This is supported by Zeraye Ekubaye, the HIV and AIDS coordinator based in the town, who says, "These women know the town well; they know all the HIV-positive mothers, and they follow up on them by going to their homes to tell them to continue treatment at the health center."

The ENHAT-CS program provides support to 236 mother mentors, who provide individual counseling and facilitate peer learning and support within mother support groups at 59 program supported health centers. Since September 2011, when the program started, these mother mentors have supported nearly 10,000 HIV-positive mothers like those at Korem Health Center.

"Our main profit—what we hold on to as our life’s purpose—is that no child shall be born with HIV," Almaz proudly states.

Updated January 21, 2014. Teberih Tsegay, Almaz Haile, Jember Alemayehu, and Yeshi Derebew have been recognized as recipients of The REAL Awards for their lifesaving work as mother mentors. More