Power of peer-led interventions
In Binga district, lives of adolescents and young people with HIV were in disarray because of negative attitudes and behaviours from members of the community. Adolescents and young people were in a difficult situation given that there was no one of their age who could give them support, encouragement in adhering to their medication, offer psychosocial support, or provide, and a place where they could meet and discuss issues that affect them on daily basis.
Adherence was a major challenge for this age group, as some were taking medication without an understanding of what it was for; in other cases, caregivers delayed telling their children about their HIV status and why they were taking ARVs.
Mr Musiabwe Lizadi, a Primary Counsellor who is based at Siadindi Clinic, described the ordeal, as he was responsible for attending to adolescents and young people with HIV during their clinic visits.
It is important to note that before the introduction of the Zvandiri model in Binga, Primary Counsellors were finding it difficult to offer tailored physical, social and mental services to adolescents and young people because of the differences in age and life situation.
The Community Adolescent Treatment Supporters (CATS) training provided a solution by empowering HIV positive mentors to provide the needed services, or refer adolescents and young people to needed medical care. UNICEF, the Ministry of Health and Child Care (MoHCC), the National AIDS Council of Zimbabwe (NAC) and other stakeholders, supported the CATS trainings. Adolescents and young people with HIV are now able to interact with the CATS during home visits, where CATS provide HIV and adherence counselling, monitor adherence and pill count, and offer clinical reminders. Adolescents now have a dedicated day on weekends to visit the health facility for review and refill.
Currently, adolescents and young people with HIV in Kotokoto Village have formed a support group with 35 programme beneficiaries; at this support group, participants discuss issues and challenges that they face in both private and public spaces, and how best they can overcome them.