Community Peer-supported HIV Groups Improve Lives of People Living with HIV

June 14th, 2019 | Story

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“Living with HIV for 23 years, there are many challenges including feeling hopeless because of the inability to work and provide for your family due to stigma in the community,” says Jane, a PLHIV cluster chairperson who resides in Arusha.

Such challenges have diminished since the inception of USAID’s Community Health and Social Welfare Systems Strengthening Program (CHSSP), implemented by JSI Research & Training Institute, Inc., which has revitalized community structures like PLHIV clusters to provide better health and social welfare services to HIV-affected populations.

Jane is the chairperson of her local PLHIV cluster, which comprises several PLHIV groups, and says it has become a source of comfort.

The group provides education and encourages all members to take their medication to improve their health, and they also ensure that every member consistently takes the medication and become virally suppressed.

The group also pools funds to generate savings so that member can start income-generating activities. Jane said, “I have directly benefitted from these groups through savings. I did not have the ability to do this before. I was able to get a loan to start a business. This has improved my financial status. For instance, I can get enough money to go get medication, money for food and for buying social uniforms for my children. Had I just stayed home, I would have been unable to save.”

This cluster, one of 102 supported by CHSSP in Tanzania, has become a trusted support group for many; under Jane’s leadership, the number of members has grown from 80 to 445. Jane’s own perspective on life has expanded, too.

The only way to deal with HIV-related challenges is to accept yourself. I have accepted my situation after being trained and enabled by CHSSP. I am now aware that living with HIV is not the end of life.

Watch the video to learn how community case worker Jane, trained by JSI, leads a community support group that reaches out to people at risk for HIV and links them testing and treatment.

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