Nobuntu Ma-awu fell pregnant with her first child in 2010, knowing that her HIV status is positive.
Desperately worried about transmitting the virus to her child, she got in touch with non-profit organisation mothers2mothers, and 18 months after her son's birth he tested negative for HIV.
Two years later when her second child was born, Ma-awu knew exactly what to do.
Thankful for the help she received from mothers2mothers, Ma-awu joined the organisation as a Mentor Mother, sharing her story with others so that they too can experience this pivotal moment with joy instead of trepidation.
A child dozing off at the clinic. (Photo: Gabi Zietsman)
Today she is the site coordinator for mothers2mothers at Town II Community Health Care Centre in Khayelitsha, overseeing operations and care for at-risk babies and mothers.
Not only does her work ensure the survival of babies, but through post-natal clubs she's also helping them thrive in the first 18 months of their lives.
The initiative started in 2001 in Cape Town at Groote Schuur hospital, where the mother-to-child HIV transmission was very high at the height of the Aids pandemic. But with their approach to hire and upskill the very mothers that were once their clients, they have had zero transmissions in their programme since 2016.
These mothers have become frontline health workers in a fight that directly impacts them - especially vital work when there's a 4.2 million shortage in Africa of such skilled people.
The 'mentor mother model' had been used by many other organisations focused on a variety of community causes, and mothers2mothers have been established in other countries besides South Africa - Lesotho, Zambia, Mozambique, Malawi, Kenya and Uganda. With the help of funding from British Airways' Flying Start charity initiative, they will soon be opening their doors in Ghana as well.
British Airways has invested R19 million in mothers2mothers to expand its work to two sites in Pretoria and in Ghana, as well as donated R100 000 for educational toys for the children. (Photo: Gabi Zietsman)
Even British royalty and mother herself Duchess Megan Markle made a stop at mothers2mothers at the end of her Cape Town leg tour earlier this year, who Ma-awu herself met.
But for this dedicated mother, there's still a certain stigma that surrounds HIV in her community, fuelled by myths and misinformation.
"I believe that we need to do more awareness within the community," says Ma-awu, "so that everyone that's HIV positive can know that 'I am HIV positive, what I need to do is to take my medication every day, and I need to go to the clinic every time I get sick, even before I go to the private GP, so that the sisters in the facility can see what is wrong'."
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Nobuntu Ma-Awu checking the cognition of one of the babies in the programme. (Photo: Gabi Zietsman)
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