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  • Awarded: 2008
  • Issue Areas: Education · Health · Health Delivery · Women's and Girls' Education
  • Countries Served: Kenya · Lesotho · Malawi · South Africa · Swaziland · Uganda
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  • About the Organization

    Each day approximately 700 children are infected with HIV, 90 percent of them in sub-Saharan Africa. Half will die before age two if the virus is left untreated. Yet the transmission of HIV from mother to child is preventable.

    mothers2mothers believes in the power of women to eliminate pediatric HIV and create health and hope for themselves and their babies, families, and communities. They train, employ, and empower Mentor Mothers, mothers living with HIV, to work alongside doctors and nurses in understaffed health centres.

    Mentor Mothers also provides health education and psychosocial support to other HIV-positive mothers on how they can protect their babies from HIV infection, and keep themselves and their families healthy.

    Since 2001, mothers2mothers has reached more than 1.2 million HIV-positive mothers in nine countries. They have expanded their work to provide education, support, and referrals on a wide range of health issues, including TB, cervical cancer, nutrition, neonatal male circumcision, gender-based violence, malaria reproductive health, and family planning.

    Every year, more than 300,000 infants are born infected with HIV, even though mother-to-child transmission is largely preventable.

    m2m "Mentor Mothers” counsel newly diagnosed HIV-positive pregnant women and new mothers to reduce the risk to their babies.

    Gene Falk and Mitch Besser save lives by providing a simple way for overburdened clinics in Africa to provide support to ensure that patients use available treatments.

    1,000 Mentor Mothers are working with 250,000 clients at 400 sites.

    Ambition for Change

    Clinics all over the world to provide the customized, comprehensive education and psychosocial support needed to ensure that HIV+ mothers access and use available treatments for preventing transmission to their babies.

    Path to Scale

    Partnerships to Replicate the Model

    Nongovernmental organizations, health ministries, and others disseminate the model independent of m2m.

    Business Model

    Philanthropic and public support, largely from the traditional revenue engines of developing world health: foundations, nongovernmental organizations, development agencies.

    Long-time friends Mitch and Gene pursued very different paths: Mitch became a doctor and worked in developing countries, while Gene was successful in business and became a senior media executive. In 2000, Mitch moved to Cape Town, South Africa. His medical practice focused his attention on women who learned that they were HIV positive during their first prenatal visit. Many of them fled the clinic, never to return. Those who stayed did not get much counseling or education about their disease from the overworked doctors and nurses. A third of them gave birth to HIV positive babies. He realized that the other two-thirds – HIV-positive mothers who remained strong and took steps, including clinical treatments, to reduce the risk of infecting their babies – could be be trained to work alongside clinic staff to comfort and counsel the terrified young women who had just learned their HIV status at the prenatal clinic. He launched m2m in 2001. Gene, who had been involved in HIV/AIDS issues for nearly 20 years, visited the first m2m site while on vacation. He was struck by the parallels to the early days of HIV/AIDS in the U.S., and realized that Mitch, who was running m2m on a shoestring, did not have the experience to build an organization capable of achieving global impact. So he moved to Cape Town and served as m2m’s executive director for a decade. At the time of the Award, m2m’s “Mentor Mothers” were counseling and educating newly diagnosed HIV-positive pregnant women and new mothers at 155 sites in South Africa and Lesotho, providing important patient support during critical junctures to keep HIV-positive women and their children healthy.

    Impact & Accomplishments

    • 1,000 Mentor Mothers working with 250,000 clients at 400 sites.
    • Independent replication in Kenya integrates mentor Mothers model into national healthcare system.
    • More than 1.2 million clients served in nine countries since inception.
    • Mentor Mothers become respected community members, reducing stigma associated with HIV/AIDS.
    • Leadership in U.S. and global initiatives to eliminate pediatric HIV transmission.


    David TorresSpecial Advisor to President & CEO, Mothers2mothers
    Frank Beadle de PalomoPresident & Chief Executive Officer, Mothers2mothers

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