Stella Chiwara is a mentor mother from Alaska mine. She joined the USAID supported Hospaz Bantwana (HB) project in 2016, the same year she tested HIV positive.
“I was going through a hard time when I was referred by the health facility to Betty Rangwani, a Support Group Facilitator from HB project implementing partner, Pamuhacha operating in Makonde District. My health was deteriorating as my CD4 count was 325. Two of my children had also tested HIV positive – I was hopeless.”
Stella found comfort in the support group where she received mental health and adherence support, she also shared her life experiences with her peers. Her health significantly improved. She had her viral load tested every year as recommended at the health facility and since 2017, her viral load is target not detected (TND). Her children who are HIV positive were enrolled in the USAID/HB program and they received psycho-social and educational support. One of them was taken into the vocational skills training program where she excelled in sewing. In 2018, Stella decided to get pregnant, she received Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission of HIV (PMTCT) support from USAID/HB project mentor mother and gave birth to a bouncing HIV-negative baby girl!
Stella was encouraged by the Support Group Facilitator to disclose her status for the benefit of her peers whom she could support through sharing her powerful story:
“After disclosing my status, I realized that there were many women living with HIV in my community who were in dire need of my support. In 2019, I was trained as a mentor mother through the Expanded Impact Program (EIP). Since then, I have never looked back!”
Mentor mothers are champion mothers who are HIV positive and have managed to complete PMTCT training and have given birth to an HIV negative child. They encourage pregnant HIV-positive mothers to go for early booking and join PMTCT support groups, offer adherence support, ensure that the HIV+ breast feeding mothers in the households take their children for HIV testing services at Ministry of Health and Child Care (MOHCC) prescribed timelines until weaning and facilitate child minding arrangements for the HIV+ breastfeeding mothers during PMTCT support groups.
Since she received the mentor mother training, Stella has reached more than 175 women living with HIV from Alaska mine and surrounding areas with her support. All the pregnant mothers that Stella supported gave birth to HIV-negative children. She is the respected and proud mentor mother of Alaska mine!