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Mitchell Besser

Founder, Mothers2mothers

Skoll Awardee

Biography

Dr. Mitch Besser is an obstetrician and gynaecologist. His professional career has been dedicated to the public health needs of women. In 1999, Besser joined the University of Cape Town's Department of OBGYN, assisting with the development of services to meet the needs of pregnant women living with HIV and to prevent the transmission of HIV from mothers to their children (PMTCT). Besser recognized the need for an education and psychosocial support program that would contribute to PMTCT services achieving the best medical and social outcomes. To fill this void, he founded mothers2mothers (m2m), in which mothers living with HIV are employed to work in health centers and communities, educating and supporting pregnant women and new mothers with HIV; reducing the workload of doctors and nurses and increasing the effectiveness of interventions that reduce the number of babies born with HIV and keep mothers healthy and alive to care for their families. Since 2001, m2m has provided care to nearly 1.5 million mothers living with HIV in nine countries in Africa; and is currently providing service in over 600 program sites in seven countries in Africa. m2m’s programs have evolved to address the needs of HIV negative women, adolescent girls, young women and children; striving for comprehensive and sustained health benefits for mothers and their families. In 2014, Besser launched AgeWell, dedicated to the needs of older persons living in communities. Applying a peer-to-peer model of support, AgeWell employs and trains independent older people to provide companionship and promote well-being and wellness among less able older people. The program has been piloted in Cape Town, the U.S. and will soon launch in Ireland. Besser has received Skoll Award for Social Entrepreneurship, Presidential Citizens Award of the United States Government, and is an Ashoka and Schwab Fellow. He has presented at TED and has given a Friday Evening Discourse at the Royal Institution of Great Britain.