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Mothers Going Further for Mothers

On Mother’s Day, we celebrate the moms who are bravely living with HIV and taking control of their health by being screened for cervical cancer. Matebello Motumi, a mom of two, speaks about the power of Mentor Mothers and the encouragement of other women along her journey with HIV and cervical pre-cancer.

Article by Dr. Hamid Mandali, Country Program Lead, mothers2mothers Lesotho May 6, 2021 //   8 minute read
Photo of Matebello Motumi in Lesotho courtesy of PEPFAR.

Cervical cancer affects women in the prime of their lives – when they are building their careers, contributing to their communities, and caring for children and families. Ensuring women have access to screening and treatment for cervical cancer is particularly important to supporting not only their health, but also the health and wellbeing of their families and communities. This is even more critical for women living with HIV, as they are six times more likely to develop cervical cancer than women who are HIV-negative.

In Lesotho, mothers2mothers is implementing a PEPFAR-funded program, through USAID, as part of the Go Further partnership focused on keeping moms free from cervical cancer. Using a family-centered approach, mothers2mothers works with women in antenatal and postnatal care to improve HIV/AIDS prevention, care, and treatment. At Mafeteng Hospital, mothers2mothers has trained Mentor Mothers to provide general health education to moms visiting maternal and child health clinics, including information about cervical cancer. Nurses are also trained to provide cervical cancer screening and treatment services. 

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On Mother’s Day, we celebrate the moms who are bravely living with HIV and taking control of their health by being screened for cervical cancer. Matebello Motumi, a mom of two, spoke with me about the power of Mentor Mothers and the encouragement of other women along her journey with HIV and cervical pre-cancer.

This interview has been shortened for length and clarity.

Dr. Hamid Mandali:  Tell us about your life and what is important to you.

Matebello Motumi:  I am a 37-year-old married woman from Lesotho. I am a mother of a six-year-old girl and a one-year-old handsome boy. I am living with HIV and started taking my ARTs [antiretroviral treatment] around September 2007. I am living with my partner who is HIV-negative, supportive, and always encouraging me. I do value taking my ARTs because they are all what makes me breathe and nurture my family.

I remember one time while collecting my ART at Mafeteng Hospital, I met this one empowering woman. She told me she started ART in 2004. She was beautiful and confident. I felt so empowered and told myself that I am going to live even beyond my life expectancy. I adhere well [to my treatment] and make sure I empower other women in the village.

HM:  Tell us about your journey with cervical cancer screening or treatment.

MM:  In those early years of my ART initiation, cervical screening was not really emphasized. But recently through organizations like mothers2mothers, I heard about cervical cancer screening and treatment. Lucky enough, I attended nurse-led support groups and mother-led support groups at the maternal and child health clinic in my community and the health talks that were given by mothers2mothers at Mafeteng Hospital. Ever since these health talks at the hospital and hearing about it on the radio, it clicked to me that I really have to go for cervical cancer screening.

Another time mothers2mothers representatives were teaching the community about the cervical cancer screening, procedures, possible manifestations of cervical cancer and how important it was to screen. So, I visited one of my friends so we could go to the clinic together. We went to the hospital and got screened for breast and cervical cancer.

Within a week of the screening, I was called with the results. My results came out positive [for HPV, which causes cervical cancer]. The nurses helped calm me down, explained in detail about my results, and possible immediate treatment since it was still in its early stages. I met Mentor Mothers who empowered me and told me that I will be fine. It’s good because I came early. I was treated early and right on that day. I thought it would be a painful experience as others would usually say or think. But it was a good experience. I felt like all women could value or normalize screening for cervical cancer. I felt so fresh and lively again.

HM:  What was your experience at the clinic?

MM:  The environment at the hospital is so welcoming and encouraging. I met motivated people who know how to talk with their clients, who understand the meaning of saving life through those morning health talks, interactions, and support groups. While I was still postponing going for cervical cancer screening, they played a vital role of convincing me to take action. They put their clients first and are so down to earth. At all the points, you get health education, and Mentor Mothers are always eager and able to help and calm us, solve our concerns, and refer as per need.

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HM:  Who were the people along the way who supported you?

MM:  My husband was always by my side. Immediately when I told him about my results, he wanted to know what he can do so that I get help. The clinic staff were so supportive. I know I was anxious and confused but the information they gave me was enough for me to calm down and get treated. Thank God I came early and there were no complications. I really thank mothers2mothers because through its health talks in different platforms, I was able to make the very best decision.

HM:  What are your dreams in life?

MM:  Well, I was a factory worker, but due to my vision problem, I had to quit and be a housewife. MCH [maternal and child health] staff helped me and referred me to [the] appropriate people. Now my vision is better and I started a business selling products in the village. I plough fruits and tomatoes then sell [them] to get the income. I want to grow into a successful businesswoman. I also want to see my child grown and becoming a nurse. I also wish to see my house complete and well furnished. Lastly, I wish to support and encourage all women, especially women living with HIV, to adhere well to their treatment, and access all sexual and reproductive services provided and other services for their wellbeing and health of their families.

HM:  What messages do you have about cervical cancer or cervical cancer screening?

MM:  I would like to challenge every woman to visit any health facility to screen for breast and cervical cancer. I now understand why we have lost so many powerful women in our communities; I believe it was cervical cancer. I believe the education or information has been lacking or not reaching some women. I feel like a change agent and my duty is to challenge all of us women to take initiative and get screened for cervical cancer. No more stress, no more unaccounted deaths and unnecessary orphans. For women who are on ART, they should also know it is very important for us to get screened even more because we are the most at risk. I want to say regular cervical screening and early detection informs early and timely treatment and prevention of cervical screening.