Story by Alice Mitchell
One of the strengths of the project in Kenya is the intentional building of cohesive teams of lay Community Health Workers (CHWs). It’s one thing that makes the two local projects that Positive Aid supports stand out and be successful.
Each CHW is allocated to a group in their area that meets monthly at one of their homes to share and report on how their work is going. This is a time to talk about challenges and successes in the work. There is formal data reporting on the number of people visited for home-based HIV care, and reporting on clients who have been unable to adhere to their HIV medications. Afterwards, sharing a meal together at the meetings provides opportunity to talk with and listen to each other more closely. It is a heart-warming job at times, and at other times a heart-wrenching one.
Reaching out to local villagers who have HIV/AIDS and connecting them with a health facility to start treatment means a life saved and stabilisation of a family’s wellbeing. Endeavouring to connect with local villagers who have declined to continue daily anti-retroviral drugs to prevent AIDS, and further spread of HIV, naturally means a critical understanding of human nature is needed. This client group (named ‘defaulters’) have most often not been provided with adequate information when first diagnosed and counselled for HIV, or have felt pressure to stop their treatment. These particular clients may not welcome the CHWs, and the dynamic can be edgy. The CHWs’ message to re-start the drugs and continue with them for the rest of life is a hard one. Yet it is dangerous to continue life without these drugs, so a CHW’s capacity to engage and persuade is paramount.
Sharing a meal together, enables CHWs to feel part of a supportive team with a collaborative mission. In fact, they ‘own’ the project. They are the hands and feet on the ground, working to halt the HIV epidemic in their location. CHWs never quit. In fact, our local manager often receives requests from local people to let them know if a vacancy becomes available.