As we look to transform health systems and advance the Johnson & Johnson (J&J) commitment to the Sustainable Development Goals, people on the front lines of care will continue to play a critical role in making these objectives a reality.
Ninety million people around the world are infected with HIV and more than half of them live in sub-Saharan Africa. I had a chance to sit down with two of our partners who are at the center of this community, delivering essential testing, treatment, and care to the most vulnerable in the sub-Saharan African region. Joining us today are Ylse van der Schoot, Executive Director of North Star Alliance (North Star) and Kathrin Schmitz, Director of Programs and Technical Support at mothers2mothers (m2m). North Star is a Flagship Partner of Johnson & Johnson Global Community Impact in EMEA, and through the Johnson & Johnson Secondment Program, 10 J&J employees have transferred their skills and helped build the capacity of North Star to connect hard-to-reach populations with health. Mothers2mothers has been a partner of Johnson & Johnson for the last 13 years and assists women and families in five African countries across a range of reproductive, maternal, newborn, child and adolescent health issues.
Read on to learn how these partners are removing barriers to health, delivering care where it’s needed most, and preparing for the 2018 AIDS Conference happening later this month.
Mariana: How is your organization transforming health?
Ylse: North Star Alliance’s 49 Blue Box Clinics operate across 13 countries in the sub-Saharan Africa region. They are located at “hotspots” such as border posts, transit towns or ports where large numbers of trucks stop, load and offload, and where sex work and informal trades flourish. Most are open late, tailored to the hours of our core target populations, and this allows our organization to bring our health programs to the mobile communities who are most at risk. With the support of partners such as Johnson & Johnson, which not only provide funding for our initiatives such as a loyalty program for truck drivers, but also lend employees to transfer skills for example in the areas of marketing, supply chain management, and human resources, we have been able to grow our impact and deliver care to hundreds of thousands of patients a year.
Kathrin: m2m’s mission is two-fold: care and empowerment. We help women and families affected by HIV/AIDS across the African continent access healthcare services, stay in care, and adhere to treatment. We do this by employing and helping to empower HIV-positive women as frontline healthcare workers and peer educators, who work both in healthcare facilities and door-to-door in local communities to deliver services that stop the spread of HIV, help those who have the virus, and address related issues such as tuberculosis and nutrition. We believe in our model, and we’ve seen strong evidence that this “integrated service platform,” as we’re calling it, really works. In 2016, along with our partners, we enrolled almost two million new clients into care, and virtually eliminated the spread of mother-to-child transmission of HIV amongst our enrolled clients for the third year in a row.
We’re also working hard to scale our impact by equipping others to use and spread our model. In Kenya, for example, we helped the government plan and institute a nationwide Mentor Mother program (KMMP) from 2012 - 2017 as a core strategy to end mother-to-child transmission of HIV and syphilis. We’ve handed ownership of the programme off to the government and got the exciting news earlier this year that funding has been secured to expand the program to all 47 of its counties, and in all, almost 1,000 Mentor Mothers will be employed and deployed across Kenya as part of the country’s formal healthcare policy.