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A mother to many

How a group of mothers in Nigeria have created a community support system to help women living with HIV.

Written by Rachael Adams | 26 Feb 2021

Credit: Tom Price/Tearfund

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.’

Life-changing impact

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.

Dorcas spends time talking to Grace, one of the mother’s she’s been supporting,  who had given birth to Gift the day before | Credit: Tom Price/Tearfund

Mother to friend

Obina* thought her life was over when she became pregnant. She was alone and scared and just sixteen. But through the support of a local Mother Buddy team, she is now flourishing.

One of the local Mother Buddies teams visited Obina after she found out she was pregnant. Obina was immediately referred to the hospital, where she was screened for HIV. And when she tested positive, Obina received counselling to help her understand and process her diagnosis and prepare for the pregnancy. Her Mother Buddy continued to visit Obina at home, and her baby was born healthy in the hospital.

‘With the help and support I received from the team and coupled with the love shown to me by the Mother Buddy, I am highly encouraged that I can now live better than before,’ shares Obina.

‘I wouldn’t have known my HIV status if not for the intervention of this organisation. The Mother Buddy became a friend and a mother to me. This makes me happy everyday.’

Safe and smiling

Knowing that Obina was HIV positive, plus the fact that she was able to give birth in a hospital, means that her baby could be given nevirapine at birth. This drug helps to prevent and treat HIV.

At eighteen months, Obina’s baby was declared negative for HIV. The baby also completed its routine immunisations, thanks to the encouragement and support of the Mother Buddies. Obina’s baby is now a thriving three-year-old.

‘For me, being recruited into IMPACT and also being supported and encouraged gives joy to me in the sense that the intervention I received from the team restored my hope,’ shares Obina.

‘Now I am comfortably taking my medication and living positively with my baby. I now have hope and I have learned never to give up when faced with hardship because God never forsakes his children.

‘I really thank God for using the team to bring back a smile on my face again.’

Please pray

    • Praise God for our Mother Buddies programmes and how they are supporting women like Obina. Thank God that fewer children are being born with HIV because of the life-saving training and treatment provided by them.
    • Take a moment to pray for people around the world currently waiting for test results to see if they have HIV. Pray for God’s comfort to surround them and for support to be on hand, whatever the diagnosis.
    • Pray that communities around the world will become more inclusive to people living with HIV. Pray that the church will always be a welcoming place to people who feel isolated from society.

*Name changed to protect identity

Written by

Written by  Rachael Adams

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