Engaging People Living with HIV as Lay Counselors in HIV Care and Treatment Services (Abbott Fund)
This two-year pilot project was designed to evaluate the effectiveness of training people living with HIV to work as lay counselors at health facilities in their communities in the Moshi and Rombo districts of Tanzania. The 68 lay counselors trained over the two-year period increased the accessibility and acceptability of HIV services and improved the quality of HIV/AIDS care. Their contributions were met with widespread acceptance and enthusiasm not just by beneficiaries, but by health workers as well. Lay counselors have been shown to be capable of linking the community to the care and treatment centers, and to provider-initiative testing and counseling in particular. They also have been effective in helping to trace and follow up with HIV-exposed and HIV-infected children, and are thus instrumental in overcoming hurdles in the provision of a comprehensive continuum of care for HIV-positive women, their children, and their families. Moreover, the lay counselors were empowered by this program in terms of their own HIV awareness, personal development, and economic stability.