Living with HIV can mean stigma and shame in communities around the world. This stops people from being able to access the help and support they need. But a group of mothers in Nigeria are determined to change this. With the support of their local church they are leading the way to tackle the spread of HIV, as well as reaching out across the community to make sure no one is isolated. Meet the Mother Buddies.
Some of the most vulnerable people living with HIV are pregnant women. And if they become shunned by society, it can be extremely difficult for them to access support. A pregnant woman who is living with HIV is six times more likely to die in pregnancy or childbirth than a woman who is not living with HIV.
One of our local partners in Nigeria, Improving Parent and Child Outcomes (IMPACT), has set up the Mother Buddies programme to come alongside expectant mothers in the community.
‘We have millions that are HIV positive in Nigeria. And we have thousands that do not know their status,’ says Dorcas, who is a Mother Buddy volunteer. ‘Becoming a Mother Buddy makes me feel like I can do something.’
Most of the ‘Mother Buddies’ in the programme are church volunteers who are living with HIV. They are able to pass on valuable learning from their own personal experiences to expectant mothers within the community.
They visit about eight times over a 12-15 month period, covering the last trimester (months six to nine in pregnancy) and six months post birth. They support the family through encouragement and friendship, and by providing healthcare information and helping women to attend their antenatal appointments.
Through the support of the Mother Buddies, more women are being able to give birth safely in hospitals and access the life-changing treatment they need.
‘I pray that God will give them the grace to hold onto him; to keep moving, never to give up on life, and never to give up on God,’ says Dorcas, about the women she serves.