Engaging communities is key

December 24, 2015

Engaging communities is key to reach the goal of zero new HIV transmissions. This is why community mobilisation is an important component of the second phase of the MaxART programme (2014-2017) in Swaziland: the early Access to ART for All (EAAA) implementation study.

The communities surrounding selected facilities are targeted with awareness raising activities on the availability of ART and the benefits of early HIV treatment. An increasing number of people now openly share their HIV status, which encourages others to have a test and enrol for ART.

The first step of community mobilisation is raising awareness among the traditional leaders, such as chiefs and 'tindvunas' (chiefdom headmen), soliciting for their buy-in for community activities and getting their permission to implement activities in their chiefdoms. Following the orientation of traditional leaders and inner councils, community-based volunteers are trained about interpersonal communication. At community level they together form a resource pool consisting of rural health motivators, caregivers ('banakeleli'), support groups, expert clients and community police.

The volunteers are equipped with tools, including education and communication materials, reporting tools and a T-shirt for ease of identification. Their task is to spread messages on EAAA and treatment adherence through door to door visits. In addition, religious leaders and traditional healers are trained on the intervention and its benefits, enabling them to encourage community members to remain on treatment and refer people to facilities. 

Community dialogues

Once the leaders agree, SAfAIDS staff conducts dialogues in the communities. During the meetings, information about the available nearby ART services is provided. Moreover, a drama group presents an edutainment to depict resistance that might exist among some community members and how these could be resolved for the benefit of the entire community. The participants then split into groups – men, women, and youth – and further discuss the benefits of ART, barriers and solutions.

Community mobilisation ensures that the people themselves are actively involved in creating a healthy community and stopping the spread of HIV. 

This article was published in the MaxART newsletter edition 7 - December 2015