Celebrating Communities on World AIDS Day
Community health workers begin their day at a health center in Zambia.
“Communities are the lifeblood of an effective AIDS response,” reports UNAIDS. To highlight the importance of communities, UNAIDS is celebrating this year’s World AIDS Day, December 1, under the banner “Communities make the difference.”
The role of communities in the AIDS response is especially important in underserved regions, where individuals often face immense obstacles in obtaining access to essential health services. Community health workers, or CHWs, are the foot soldiers helping to bridge the health service access gap. CHWs are trained public health staff who are recruited from the communities they serve, are able to overcome the challenges of stigma and engender trust, and bring needed services to individuals at a convenient time and place.
"A substantial body of evidence demonstrates that community health workers increase uptake of health services, reduce health inequalities, provide a high quality of services and improve overall health outcomes. Community health worker programs also represent good jobs, bolster national and local economies and increase productivity by improving health and well-being.”
— UNAIDS 2017 Report: 2 Million African Community Health Workers
Ciheb understands the vital role that CHWs play in an effective and sustainable AIDS response; we have trained and mobilized thousands of CHWs across Africa. Establishing these cadres of skilled practitioners is an extension of our core commitment to build local capacity for effective results and sustained outcomes at the patient, community, and population levels.
An example of how Ciheb supports and mobilizes CHWs can be found in the Community HIV Epidemic Control (CHEC) model in Zambia. This innovative service delivery paradigm utilzes a peer-to-peer approach to address each of the UNAIDS 90-90-90 "treatment for all" targets. In CHEC, a CHW equipped with a tablet linked to the national electronic health record offers HIV testing and health messaging to all members of the community. Persons testing HIV positive are referred to a healthcare facility and receive follow up by the CHW to ensure they are in care and receiving treatment.
CHEC was implemented at 200 government-run clinics in Zambia and involved over 1,000 CHWs. These workers conducted over 1 million tests, linked over 90% of clients to health services, and delivered antiretroviral treatment to more than 2,000 stable-on-care patients.
Following CHEC's initial success, Ciheb rolled out and expanded the model to other regions and contexts. (For more information download Ciheb's CHEC Report.)