Student Ambassador Abi Alsop writes from Manchester about complacency and conquering HIV at her University.

People say ignorance is bliss. Yet, I’m also told that knowledge is the antidote to fear. This poses a difficult question. Would I rather be dwelling in complete disregard or in a jarring awareness of reality?

As young people I think we are often faced with this juxtaposition. Many under 25 year olds are on the blade-edge of ignoring the worlds issues and leaving them to the ‘real adults’, or actually confronting them head on with great drive and passion.

For me, HIV has always been a far off issue from my happy, secure and relatively privileged student life. I was well versed on the statistics and appalled by the prevalence of such a treatable virus. Yet, never fully grasped what it would look like, how it would feel, and why so many people were still concerned with it in this modern time.


Here’s some information on HIV if you’re unaware of the virus:

HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) is a virus that is contracted through bodily fluid during unprotected sex, contaminated blood transfusions, hypodermic needles or from mother to child during pregnancy, birth or breastfeeding. The virus attacks your body’s immune system decreasing its ability to fight off other viruses, infections and bacteria. Unlike some other viruses, the human body cannot get rid of HIV. Whilst no cure for HIV currently exists, it can be controlled with proper medical care.

Treatment for HIV is called antiretroviral therapy (ART or ARVs). If someone is HIV positive and is receiving effective treatment, they can have a fairly normal life expectancy and their chances of infecting others are reduced by 96%, which means treatment can also be used as prevention!

University Student are a key demographic for HIV awareness

Being a Chasing Zero Ambassador has opened my eyes to the importance of talking about HIV and AIDS within the student community. AIDS is one of the biggest killers among young people worldwide. Additionally, a quarter of people in the UK living with AIDS do not know they are infected. So, no, ignorance really isn’t the paradise we’re sold. Through education and raising awareness of the realities of HIV we can chase zero HIV/AIDS related deaths.

I recently attended an event hosted by Youth Stop Aids (Manchester), a youth-led movement campaigning for a world without AIDS. The event offered an opportunity to hear first-hand the inspiring stories of young people overcoming the toughest hurdles to make a change. The evening moved people to tears and laughter as their powerful stories weaved together humour, positivity and their emotionally hard-hitting experiences.

We heard tales of rejection, humiliation, broken relationships, tormenting mental illness, yet amongst all this pain was hope. Hope in the knowledge and understanding of the virus that had made a home in their bodies. Hope in the ground-breaking research and medicines that help them to lead ‘normal’, healthy lives. Hope in the support they found in the HIV positive community and beyond. Hope that we can end AIDS.

Student Ambassador Abi Alsop at a society event for World Aid's day
Reflecting on that evening I realised how I, a reasonably well educated campaigner for ending AIDS still clung to the age-old stigma of the virus. If I’m honest, I committed the act least desired by the amazing young people who spoke – I made them a statistic.

I categorised them, labelled them, and didn’t fully challenge my views of HIV and its impact. In order to break the perpetuating cycle of stigma, visibility, honesty and powerful story sharing is key. After all, at the centre of campaigning and activism are human beings. Therefore, complacency is a killer.

The speakers Jimmy, Beccy and Krishen aren’t facts or medical cases. They’re people. They’re 20- something’s with jobs, families, dreams and passion. Their desire for advocacy was tangible. The rawness of their emotion could be felt through the cracking of their voices and seen in the deep furrows on their forehead.

The main message – we can beat AIDS, but It Ain’t Over.

We wrote to the government and to local MPs to urge them to re-prioritise tackling HIV and AIDS globally and lead the world in beating it by 2030. Going forwards I am hoping to partner as a Chasing Zero Student Ambassador with the Youth Stop Aids society at the University of Manchester to raise the profile of HIV on campus. As the enigmatic human rights campaigner Nelson Mandela once said,

‘In the face of the grave threat posed by HIV/AIDS, we have to rise above our differences and combine our efforts to save our people.’


This learning experience has re-written my perspective on HIV. I’m now more positive (Excuse the accidental pun) and excited than ever that we, young people, can have a role in making history.

Together we can beat AIDS.


Chase zero with us!

Every year is crucial now as we chase the goal of the end of AIDS by 2030. It’s vital we keep up the momentum. Will you get involved in 2017? Join the chase and help make history!

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It’s World AIDS Day 2016!

Today the UN reports on the progress we’re making towards zero AIDS-related deaths worldwide. This year they say:

“The world has committed to end the AIDS epidemic by 2030 as part of the Sustainable Development Goals. We are seeing that countries are getting on the Fast-Track—more than 18 million people are on life-saving HIV treatment and country after country is on track to virtually eliminate HIV transmission from mother to child. We are winning against the AIDS epidemic, but we are not seeing progress everywhere…”

Skip to the end to read the rest of the statement.

Students chasing zero

Our brilliant Student Ambassadors have been working hard to raise awareness among the student generation of why HIV is still a relevant topic and what they can do to help see AIDS defeated for good. Throughout HIV Testing Week and today on World AIDS Day, they’ve been putting a special emphasis on raising funds, running awareness events, encouraging people to get HIV tests and giving out free condoms.

We have Student Ambassadors in Cardiff, Aberystwyth, Birmingham, Loughborough, Manchester and Southampton, working together with other global health student societies. At Cardiff Uni, our Ambassador Chuma linked up with Unicef and other charities to put on an incredible fundraising evening, ‘Fight AIDS With Friends’, with live music, dance and comedy creating a great atmosphere in the Students’ Union.

Meg, our Ambassador at Birmingham Uni, wrote a blog piece to explain why she does what she does.

“Why HIV, and why me? Its relevance for me doesn’t lie in a personal tie to the illness – rather a desire to see inequality in birth overcome, and one way of achieving this is to see a generation born HIV-free. Not just free of illness but free to grow up healthier, and with a greater chance of reaching their full potential.”

Read the rest of Meg’s thoughts here >>

students chasing zero

Chase zero with us!

Every year is crucial now as we chase the goal of the end of AIDS by 2030. It’s vital we keep up the momentum. Will you get involved in 2017? Join the chase and help make history!

Global progress update from UNAIDS

Today, we commemorate World AIDS Day—we stand in solidarity with the 78 million people who have become infected with HIV and remember the 35 million who have died from AIDS-related illnesses since the first cases of HIV were reported.

The world has committed to end the AIDS epidemic by 2030 as part of the Sustainable Development Goals. We are seeing that countries are getting on the Fast-Track—more than 18 million people are on life-saving HIV treatment and country after country is on track to virtually eliminate HIV transmission from mother to child.

We are winning against the AIDS epidemic, but we are not seeing progress everywhere. The number of new HIV infections is not declining among adults, with young women particularly at risk of becoming infected with HIV.

We know that for girls in sub-Saharan Africa, the transition to adulthood is a particularly dangerous time. Young women are facing a triple threat: a high risk of HIV infection, low rates of HIV testing and poor adherence to HIV treatment.

Coinfections of people living with HIV, such as tuberculosis (TB), cervical cancer and hepatitis C, are at risk of putting the 2020 target of fewer than 500 000 AIDS-related deaths out of reach. TB caused about a third of AIDS-related deaths in 2015, while women living with HIV are at four to five times greater risk of developing cervical cancer. Taking AIDS out of isolation remains an imperative if the world is to reach the 2020 target.

With access to treatment, people living with HIV are living longer. Investing in treatment is paying off, but people older than 50 who are living with HIV, including people who are on treatment, are at increased risk of developing age-associated noncommunicable diseases, affecting HIV disease progression.

AIDS is not over, but it can be if we tailor the response to individual needs at particular times in life. Whatever our individual situation may be, we all need access to the tools to protect us from HIV and to access antiretroviral medicines should we need them. A life-cycle approach to HIV that finds solutions for everyone at every stage of life can address the complexities of HIV. Risks and challenges change as people go through life, highlighting the need to adapt HIV prevention and treatment strategies from birth to old age.

The success we have achieved so far gives us hope for the future, but as we look ahead we must remember not to be complacent. We cannot stop now. This is the time to move forward together to ensure that all children start their lives free from HIV, that young people and adults grow up and stay free from HIV and that treatment becomes more accessible so that everyone stays AIDS-free.

– Michel Sidibé, Executive Director of UNAIDS, Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations

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About an hour off-road from the city of Mzuzu in Northern Malawi lies Kamwe, one of the communities that our Pregnancy Twinning programme works in. Pregnancy risks are six times higher for women in this region who are living with HIV, so we work to bring maternal health care to them, making sure they stay healthy and give birth to HIV-free children. We had been jolting down a dirt track for half an hour on the way to Kamwe when we overtook a cart pulled by two oxen and driven by a boy of about twelve.

“That’s how they get to the hospital, y’know…” our colleague Joshua remarked.

the world's slowest ox-pulled ambulance

He went on to explain how difficult and expensive transport is – you could easily live 15km from the nearest clinic and public transport doesn’t stretch this far off-road. Hospital birth rates are much lower for rural mums than urban mums because of the difficulty of this journey. So the villagers have started to find their own solutions; now whenever a woman goes into labour, there will be a way to get into town provided by the community… and one of those ways is the trusty ox-cart.

Looking back I saw the cart, now in the distance but still moving at 2mph. I imagined it also towing a mum in labour – how she’d be concentrating on her breathing and counting the seconds between contractions while travelling in the world’s slowest ambulance. I thought, surely this is the most bizarre labour transport story I’ll hear today. But no…

The Chief’s scooter


Hours later I was sat on a bench across from the 72 year-old Chief of the district. He was seated in a rusted hospital chair – its back legs wedged into the ground, with front wheels lifted into the air. He solemnly told us stories about expectant mums delivering on the roadside on their way to the hospital or in their own one-room homes alone at night time; how many of the expectant mums were already sick from living with HIV and were sometimes too weak to pull through from a difficult childbirth. He told us of the many maternal deaths he knew of in his district, and of the one he had witnessed.

Lastly, he told us that over recent years, all this has changed. In Kamwe, maternal deaths have now completely stopped happening.

He attributed this change to three things: the presence and help of our Mother Buddies, the village women completely adhering to their advice on HIV treatment and antenatal care, and lastly to his very own 1970s Yamaha scooter…

The village’s efforts to provide transport in emergencies even extended to the Chief, who proudly showed us his blue scooter parked in the shade of a nearby tree. This humble 50cc engine had been to the rescue of many a pregnant woman.

“The first time it was 2am,” he told us. “One of my farmers had run to my house calling out that his wife, Bertha, was in labour. I rode to their house and she climbed onto the back of the bike. Waters broken and contractions getting close, we drove to the clinic in the pitch black.”

They arrived at the nearest clinic 25 minutes later. Having been chauffeured by the Chief on a scooter older than she was, Bertha was handed over the the midwife who safely delivered her firstborn baby, a boy.

The gift of a lift

Not all of our supported communities have these arrangements to provide for their mums-to-be, and nationwide the leading cause of maternal deaths rurally are delays caused by transport difficulties – delays accessing antenatal care and delays getting to the clinic in labour. It’s astounding that something so easy to fix causes so many tragedies.

This Christmas, we want to tackle this issue for mums across Malawi by covering cost of a transport service in other communities so that all of the expectant mums we support can make the journey to life after birth. 

Want to help? For £12, you can buy somebody an alternative Christmas gift this year – a lift to the hospital for a woman like Bertha! 

Find out more and give the gift of a lift here >>

The Chief and his scooter

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Pregnancy is all about new things slowly developing. We’re always developing the Pregnancy Twinning programme, led by your feedback and the needs on the ground in sub-Saharan Africa. We’re seeing more and more children born safely and HIV-free, and supporters in the UK able to be part of it. Here’s an update on how the gestation is going…

ConnectionGallery pic

We believe in facing the scary things in life together, and that connecting people can make a big difference. Since launching Pregnancy Twinning, we’ve tried to build stronger connections between families in the UK and Malawi – we’re pleased that we can now send UK mums two updates about their twins, before and after the birth.

We’d love the connection to go both ways, so that mums in Malawi can learn something about their twins in the UK too. We’re exploring some options. As a first baby step, we’ve created our Twinning Gallery – a photo album of UK twins which we’ll share with the mums in Malawi when we visit. They’ll be delighted to see your faces – do send us your photo if you’ve twinned a pregnancy already and would like to be part of the album!


Drum roll please… you may have noticed that we’ve built a brand new website! Check out the all-new

There’s lots of information about the programme, the needs in the communities where we operate, and a space to tell stories – from both Malawi and the UK. To be part of it, send us your pregnancy stories and a few words about why you chose to twin your pregnancy. Email

We’ve set up dedicated Facebook and Twitter accounts for Pregnancy Twinning too, to keep you in the loop with the latest developments, maternal health news and stories.


We listened to you (gratefully!) when you told us you loved the concept of Pregnancy Twinning and wanted to be able to join in even when you didn’t know anybody who was pregnant. That’s why we’ve developed the ‘Sponsor a pregnancy’ option, so that groups, workplaces, midwives and anybody else who wants to can support a woman through pregnancy, birth and beyond.


Too many babies who’ve been supported through a safe birth, and have been born HIV-free, are still at risk of growing into malnourished infants. We want to see those babies become strong, healthy children, so we’re building a new nutrition aspect into the programme. We’ll let you know more about this very soon.

Meanwhile, our Pregnancy Twinning pilot in Sierra Leone is going well. It’s the world’s most dangerous place to give birth, really in need of effective antenatal support programmes. The Mother Buddies approach is a great way to reach women in remote, rural communities. Once all the systems have been tried and tested, we hope to be able to twin UK mums with women at risk in Sierra Leone.


Are you a champion? Well, you could be! We’ll soon have opportunities for people who want to use their time and talents to reach more people with the contagious Pregnancy Twinning idea. Becoming a Pregnancy Twinning Champion will be a fun, satisfying way to contribute to making birth safer around the world.

Volunteers have always been the lifeblood of Chasing Zero and Pregnancy Twinning. We’ll be posting other volunteering opportunities on our online pinboard as they arise – keep an eye on it.

Healthy development

Thanks very much for your support / feedback / love as Pregnancy Twinning develops and grows. We think it’s now about the size of an avocado (pregnancy joke alert). In all seriousness, you’re helping us make an extraordinary difference to women, families and communities in Malawi. Just have a look at the evidence.

malawi family

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An interesting story in the news recently revealed the world’s tallest and shortest nations.

A study has tracked growth trends in 187 countries since 1914. Good news for the UK – we’ve got four inches taller on average since 1914, with the average man at 5’10’ and the average woman at 5’5’!

But the study found that not everybody around the world has been growing. It showed that in parts of sub-Saharan Africa, people have actually got shorter since the 1970s. Uganda and Sierra Leone – two countries we work in – are two of the nations to have lost a few centimetres.

Why do these whimsical-sounding stats matter?

Well, average height tells us a lot about what’s going on nutritionally. The study’s authors say that these increases and decreases in height are largely driven by the standard of healthcare, sanitation and nutrition available in that country. “Also important is the mother’s health and nutrition during pregnancy,” they say.

Since May this year, Pregnancy Twinning has been piloting our Mother Buddies programme in Sierra Leone. Not only is it the world’s most dangerous place to give birth, but the area we’re working in also suffers from a real nutrition problem.

1,000 days of growthYoung woman proud of clean water with new child

It’s so important that pregnant women get adequate nutrition during pregnancy, and that babies and toddlers get a good, balanced diet at the start of their lives. Studies have found that children who get the right nutrition in their first 1,000 days are ten times more likely to overcome life-threatening childhood diseases, complete nearly five more grades in school, go on to earn 21% more in wages as adults and are more likely to have healthier families of their own.

That’s why we really want to follow the children born through Pregnancy Twinning in Sierra Leone and Malawi to make sure their parents are confident in making good nutritional choices in the vital first 1,000 days and beyond. We’re planning to put in place longer-term follow-up visits by Mother Buddies to monitor each family’s nutrition and keep giving advice for two years.

We’d love the next generation in Sierra Leone to grow up healthy, HIV-free, and perhaps a little taller… Watch this space for news about how you can help.

Find out more about Pregnancy Twinning here.

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Chuma Gondwe is a Student Ambassador for Chasing Zero at Cardiff Uni. He shares his thoughts on his generation’s stake in the fight against AIDS.

Where we are born should not affect the chances and opportunities that we have, but sadly we live in a world where the location of your birth decides whether your mother survives childbirth, whether you make it through infancy and whether you live past 35.

I believe that everyone, everywhere is born with so much potential and they should get a fair chance to fulfill it. However, it seems that HIV doesn’t agree with this view: in the UK, only a few babies are born with HIV each year, but in sub-Saharan Africa, 520 babies per day are born HIV positive. Statistics have the ability to dehumanise but if we look again, that means 520 people per day are instantly disadvantaged at birth, with their chances of exploiting their potential hindered just by being born in a different place.

I believe that everyone, everywhere is born with so much potential and they should get a fair chance to fulfill it

I came across Chasing Zero a couple of years ago at a summer event and I really connected with the vision they had – a vision of a generation with the potential to flourish HIV-free; a vision of hope that believes every individual living with AIDS should have the possibility to experience life in the fullest sense. I was instantly sold and wanted to do as much as I could do to help, so I became a Student Ambassador.

Student Ambassadors 2016Being a Student Ambassador has been a pleasure! It can be challenging at times but just knowing that you’ve helped make a difference makes it incredibly worthwhile. I’ve had the chance to run fundraiser events like pub quizzes and raise HIV awareness at my university. So many people have supported the cause and we’ve managed to become a society at Cardiff University which is pretty exciting! The partnership with MTV’s Staying Alive Foundation has been great, as we got to visit MTV London and had the opportunity to learn more about HIV/AIDS from leading experts in the field.

As an Ambassador, I went to an event that was part of the STOP AIDS Missing Meds Campaign, focused on the lack of research into ARV drugs. During this event some people living with HIV shared their stories; I’d never realised that ARVs alone are not the sole solution – for some people, ARVs can have side effects and lead to depression. This can be averted by using an alternative ARV treatment, but that option isn’t always available in places like rural Malawi – yet.

My generation needs to take on the challenge

My generation really needs to be engaged with the fight against HIV/AIDS – it matters so much. Our culture is very much built on ‘trend’ and this is always changing, so even when it comes to injustices there always seems to be a trendy one to fight. We base a lot of our thinking on what we hear through the media, so we get the attitude that “if we haven’t heard about x in a while then x doesn’t really matter or exist any more.” I’m a lover of social justice and I don’t want to deny the importance of other causes… but the common perceptions that “fighting AIDS was only a trend in the 90s” and that “HIV/AIDS isn’t a problem any more” are completely wrong. AIDS is still the leading cause of death among young women worldwide, and an estimated 36 million people are living with HIV today.

The common perceptions that “fighting AIDS was only a trend in the 90s” and that “HIV/AIDS isn’t a problem any more” are completely wrong

My generation in the UK has so much talent, is educated and we’ve had a fair chance to exploit our potential – it’s time we used our position to help others experience life in the fullest sense. There’s research to be done into HIV treatment, especially for children. There’s policies that need to be changed in order to increase drug production and distribute them fairly. It’s amazing to see all the progress that has been made internationally – the number of children being born with HIV has decreased by 58% worldwide since 2000 – but we need an extra push right now to meet that goal of ending AIDS by 2030, and it’s my generation that needs to take on the challenge over the next 15 years.

There’s lots to be done, but AIDS can be defeated in our lifetime – my generation needs to be aware of that and become fully engaged in the fight.

Blog by Chuma Gondwe (19) , Chasing Zero Student Ambassador at Cardiff University, studying Human Geography

We’re looking for a few more Student Ambassadors for next term, starting in September 2016. Interested in inspiring your generation? Apply here.

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We talk about the power of mums a lot at Chasing Zero, but what about the dads?

In much of rural sub-Saharan Africa, pregnancy, birth and childcare are seen as very much the woman’s domain. It would be thought odd in many communities for a husband to go to an antenatal check-up or discuss maternal health. But one study has shown that a father’s involvement in those things reduces the risk of his baby dying or contracting HIV by a huge 40%! That’s why our Mother Buddies talk to both parents, and why we also encourage men to become Father Buddies to the dads in their communities, urging them to step up their involvement as a way of protecting their families. Just recently, we trained three new Father Buddies in Sierra Leone.

While we were doing training across Africa this spring, we met a couple of inspiring fathers that we’d like you to meet…

David, DR CongoDavid

We met David wearing an IMPACT Mother Buddies T-shirt outside the clinic’s maternity room. He had just rushed his pregnant wife to the clinic.

“I was in the field farming when I was called with the news that my wife was not feeling well,” he explained. He was keen to tell us more about why he was there. “A Mother Buddy has been visiting our home teaching us the importance of male involvement during pregnancy; I am proud that I am actively involved in my wife’s pregnancy and I have also started teaching other men to come with their wives for antenatal visits,” he said. We were impressed, and couldn’t help but smile when he added, “My love for my wife increased when we did the medical tests together.”

We left David waiting patiently outside the labour ward to find out how his wife was doing.

Lumbe, NigeriaLumbe and Judith

Lumbe lives with his wife Judith in a remote, traditional village. Mother and Father Buddies offered pregnancy support to both women and their husbands there – but most men stayed away, believing pregnancy and childbirth to be the woman’s responsibility. Lumbe was an exception in that community. He took on board the message being shared: that the pregnancy belongs to both of them and that the father needs to be fully involved, starting with antenatal care. Lumbe was ready and willing to support his wife in every way possible and saw this as part of being a good husband. They came for antenatal testing together, and that’s when they discovered that they were both HIV positive.

Thanks to Lumbe daring to be counter-cultural and going with his wife for tests, we could help both him and Judith to access the ARV medication and advice they needed to protect their own health and help their baby be born free from HIV.

Counter-cultural care

We’re wishing a happy Father’s Day to these excellent dads and the many others like them who are bravely challenging the status quo to keep their families safe.

Pregnancy Twinning is for dads too! Support another family through pregnancy, birth and beyond by twinning a pregnancy today!

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The success of the IMPACT Mother Buddies programme in Malawi and Nigeria has made other countries in the region keen to get on board.

Democratic Republic of CongoDRC group

Chasing Zero’s Executive Director David Deakin went to DR Congo a few weeks ago to see how they were getting on with a small pilot programme of a dozen Mother Buddies. After one year, the results have been encouraging and rural communities are keen to continue. Thanks to a new partner organisation on the ground in DR Congo, David was able to spend some time training local trainers who will teach 30 more keen women to be Mother Buddies.

Much of DR Congo is very unstable due to ongoing civil war and unrest. This has all sorts of effects on families living in rural communities, including a stubbornly high maternal death rate. The Mother Buddies there will offer additional help with nutrition and other issues that affect the health of pregnant women and their families.

Sierra Leone

Over on the west coast, the IMPACT Mother Buddies programme is starting up in Sierra Leone this month. David and local partners have been training the first group of Mother Buddies and Co-ordinators who will start working across a few rural villages.

Sierra Leone is currently the most dangerous place in the world to give birth, with the highest rate of women losing their lives through pregnancy or childbirth complications. To give you an idea, per 100,000 births, 1,360 women lost their lives in 2015, compared to 9 women in the UK. The area that these Mother Buddies will be working in also suffers from a bad nutrition problem, so they’ll help to meet these needs alongside their pregnancy support role.

We’re aiming to set up Pregnancy Twinning to support the programme in Sierra Leone, so you’ll be able to twin a pregnancy with a mum there soon!


Last but not least, the IMPACT Mother Buddies programme should be launching in rural Uganda in July. We’ll keep you informed. Uganda is one of the top ten countries in the world with the highest HIV prevalence, along with Malawi.

Mum power!

The programme’s success in Malawi and Nigeria has shown that mum-to-mum peer support really works. For women living in rural communities, having somebody ‘like them’ who has been through the same experience and understands all the challenges they face, who comes alongside to share their advice is really effective. We’re excited to see mums and babies kept safe and well, and more children born free from HIV in these new countries over the next year. Watch this space.

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The Mother Buddies programme (also known as IMPACT – IMproving Parent And Child outcomes) started life in Malawi. But you might not know that there are also Mother Buddies working in rural parts of Nigeria. We’ve recently evaluated how the programme is going there, and the results are now in.

Nigeria’s Mother Buddies operate in the same way as in Malawi. These inspiring women are living with HIV themselves, but thanks to ARV treatment and support, they’ve given birth to HIV-free children. Keen to help other mums in their area, they visit vulnerable women during their pregnancy and for six months after birth, providing advice, support and care.

They make eight visits to each of their pregnant clients. These women also receive help with transport to a clinic or hospital, and access to ARV drugs if they are living with HIV.

The impact in numbers…

The Nigeria evaluation compared a group of women who’d had a Mother Buddy with a similar group who hadn’t. Here’s what we found out about Mother Buddy clients:

They get more antenatal care They were 15% more likely to attend four or more antenatal appointments (as recommended by the World Health Organisation).

They give birth more safely There was a 22% increase in births assisted by healthcare professionals, a 13% increase in deliveries at health clinics, and a huge 89% increase in birth plans.

They get more health advice The Mother Buddies group showed a 45% increase in accessing parent and child health counselling and a 62% increase in family planning counselling.

They are better informed We’re very pleased that the women with Mother Buddies showed a 45% increase in their maternal health knowledge.

Dads are more involved We saw a 34% increase in partners going along to antenatal appointments with the women – something that’s quite unusual in rural Nigeria.

And when it comes to HIV…

24% more Mother Buddy clients showed ‘comprehensive’ HIV knowledge compared to the control group.

Over the course of the project, HIV testing in the community increased by 17% overall, and the proportion of people living with HIV taking ARVs increased from 77% to 100%. What is more, although this was a small group, it’s encouraging to see that the transmission rate of HIV reduced from 50% to 0% at the end of the evaluation period!

A story behind the statsGift

So what do all those numbers really mean? This is baby Gift, born HIV-free in Nigeria, even though her parents are both living with HIV. Nancy, the local Mother Buddy, identified this couple while Gift’s mother was pregnant and came alongside them to offer advice, making sure they kept taking their ARV medication. “I gave this family my testimony of living with HIV as a mother,” said Nancy. “Therefore they trusted me.” Gift was born healthy and HIV negative. What a gift!

It’s great to see this evidence of the Mother Buddy approach working so well in Nigeria. More countries in the region are preparing to follow suit – watch this space.

You can check out our evaluation of Malawi’s Mother Buddies here.

Thank you so much for supporting this ground-breaking model of mum-to-mum support. As you can see, it’s making a huge difference. In time, we hope to set up Pregnancy Twinning in Nigeria to support the IMPACT Mother Buddies programme there. In the meantime, you can twin a pregnancy to send this life-changing help to another woman in Malawi.

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A big thank you to everybody who sent their mum a Chasing Zero Mother’s Day card this year!

>> If you did, we’d love your feedback – please could you take a couple of minutes to answer five simple questions? CLICK HERE.

There’s no better time than Mother’s Day to support mums. We wanted to offer you the chance to say thank you to your mum, while helping another mum in her honour.

Each card sent contributed £12 to the Pregnancy Twinning programme. Why did we choose this figure? £12 is about the amount needed on the ground in Malawi to get a pregnant woman from a remote village to a hospital or clinic for antenatal checks and to give birth in a safe place. Usually, they’ll be taken there on a hardy motorbike-taxi.

Transport is such a simple thing. But the reality is that, without it, many women won’t be able to walk the long distance to a clinic while they’re in labour and this is one of the reasons that so many women give birth at home in basic conditions with no medical support. That, in turn, is one of the main causes of infant and maternal mortality.

One of the many important things picked up during antenatal care is whether mum is living with HIV. Many women have never been tested. But once a pregnant women gets the right ARV treatment, not only does she stay strong and healthy, but the chances of her passing HIV on to her baby plummets to below 1%.

So, a simple thing like a lift to the hospital can make an enormous difference. We’re thrilled that we raised just over £3,000 this Mother’s Day thanks to all the people who sent a special card. That will go a long way in Malawi, supporting and protecting mothers, babies and their families.

HIV freeProviding transport is just one aspect of Pregnancy Twinning – our maternal health programme that supports vulnerable mothers through pregnancy, birth and beyond. And it’s all about mums helping mums. Mums from the UK twinning their pregnancies provide the funds needed for a Mother Buddy in Malawi to look after an expectant mum. These Mother Buddies are also mums, trained up and drawing on their own life experiences of giving birth to children free from HIV in one of the most badly affected parts of the world.

It’s so exciting to see how a few simple steps and the power of mothers united is not only helping babies to be born safely, but is actually reversing the effects of HIV on families and communities, and seeing a whole new generation born free from HIV. Mums really are amazing.

We hope you and your mum had an excellent Mother’s Day.

>> Click here to find out more about Pregnancy Twinning.

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