Introduction: Community-based mentor mothers (cMMs) are women living with HIV who provide peer support to pregnant/postpartum women living with HIV (PWLWH) to enhance antiretroviral therapy (ART) adherence, retention in care and prevent perinatal transmission of HIV. The goal of this study was to explore the experiences, perceptions, mechanisms and health impact of cMMs on PWLWH in Kenya from the perspective of cMMs. Methods: We conducted a prospective mixed-methods study in southwestern Kenya in 2015–2018. In the qualitative phase, we completed in-depth interviews with cMMs to explore their perceptions and experiences in supporting PWLWH. Transcripts were broad-coded according to identified themes, then fine-coded using an inductive approach. In the quantitative phase, we analysed medical record data from PWLWH who were randomized in the cMM intervention to examine the impact of cMM visits on optimal prevention of mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT). We used cluster-adjusted generalized estimating equation models to examine relationships with a composite outcome (facility delivery, infant HIV testing, ART adherence and undetectable viral load at 6 weeks postpartum). Finally, qualitative and quantitative results were integrated. Results: Convergence of findings from cMM interviews (n = 24) and PWLWH medical data (n = 589) revealed: (1) The cMM intervention was utilized and perceived as acceptable. PWLWH received, on average, 6.2 of 8 intended home visits through 6 weeks postpartum. (2) The cMMs reported serving as role models and confidantes, supporting PWLWH's acceptance of their HIV status, providing assurances about PMTCT and assisting with male partner disclosure and communication. cMMs also described benefits for themselves, including empowerment and increased income. (3) The cMM visits supported PWLWH's completion of PMTCT steps. Having ≥4 cMM home visits up to 6 weeks postpartum, as compared to <4 visits, was associated with higher likelihood of an optimal PMTCT composite outcome (adjusted relative risk 1.42, p = 0.044). Conclusions: We found that peer support from cMMs during pregnancy through 6 weeks postpartum was associated with improved uptake of critical PMTCT services and health behaviours and was perceived as beneficial for cMMs themselves. CMM support of PWLWH may be valuable for other low-resource settings to improve engagement with lifelong ART and HIV services among PWLWH.
- community-based mentor mothers
- pregnant/postpartum women living with HIV
- prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV