Young Mentor Mothers
- Organisation: Africaid Zvandiri
- Country: Zimbabwe
- Region: Eastern and southern Africa
- Stage of innovation: Stage 3: Pilot
- Start date: 2018
- End date: Ongoing
- Type of innovation: Service innovation: new or improved service
- Budget: US$400,000
- Funded by: UNICEF and Grand Challenges Canada
Summary of intervention
In Zimbabwe, adolescent girls and young women living with HIV are the age group most likely to pass HIV to their babies. But many do not have the information and support they need to keep themselves and their babies healthy.
In 2018, Africaid and the Zimbabwe Ministry of Health and Child Care began training young mothers living with HIV as ‘mentor mothers’ to support to other young mothers with HIV. At home and in clinics, they provide counselling, information and referrals relating to sexual and reproductive health and rights, including HIV testing for other children and sexual partners, links to PrEP, mental health support and support to address gender-based violence. In between visits, they provide support through phone calls and messages.
Mentor mothers also run support groups for young mothers, which provide an opportunity to informally assess babies’ health and signpost young women to services.
To date, 76 adolescent girls and young women have been trained as mentor mothers across 9 districts. They are supporting 1,450 young mums and their babies, including 410 babies exposed to HIV. Of the young mothers being supported, 92% are virally suppressed and 99% of infants were HIV negative in their last test. This translates to a mother-to-child transmission rate of <1%, compared to the national rate of 7.66%.
- Africaid had to think creatively about how to deliver the mentor mothers’ training to ensure participants could come with their babies.
- The support groups were particularly effective. They enabled young women to talk freely about sensitive topics, such as sex, and this led to greater service uptake.
- It was challenging to get male partners to take up the offer of HIV testing. But as trust built, and men saw their partner’s confidence in caring for their baby increase, more came forward.
- There are plans to add additional interventions around early childhood development and nutritional support.
- New technology will be adopted to enable mentor mothers to better collect data on mother-and-baby pairs to be entered directly into the MOH health system.
The model has been included in a Global Fund proposal for national scale-up. The plans are to integrate the programme into all project sites alongside CATS, a peer-to-peer programme for adolescents and young people living with HIV, and new interventions for young men and boys.