Community Adolescent Treatment Supporters (CATS)
Community Adolescent Treatment Supporters (CATS) have been trained and mentored since 2009 to provide community based adherence monitoring and counselling for their HIV positive peers. This training was made possible through permission from the Ministry of Health and Child Welfare. A team of 20 HIV positive adolescents provide daily support for their HIV positive peers and this has proved to be an extremely powerful approach for supporting children and adolescents with their daily, life long medication. It is also an opportunity for the adolescents to develop counselling skills and experience – five of the original team have now moved on to further education including nursing, dental nursing and social work.
The CATS have become the foundation of the Zvandiri model. They really are setting the standard for the provision of appropriate, accessible, sustainable prevention, treatment, care and support services. Working within their own communities, they are creating a safety net with which their HIV peers can be supported through HIV testing and counselling, disclosure, starting treatment on ARVs, difficulties with adherence, stigma and discrimination and relationship challenges. They are doing phenomenal work and strengthening the capacity of local clinics.