Nomsa Mandoyi reports on an AIDS support programme which combines adolescent peer counselling with community adult caregivers
The pain and devastation caused by the AIDS pandemic clearly calls for innovative programmatic responses based on lessons to date. The NACCW has initiated a pilot project during the course of this year aimed at impacting on the spread of the disease amongst youth at risk using peer educators. Research and common sense tell us that young people are more likely to listen to their peers than to adults.
With this in mind, more than forty young people from residential facilities and communities around King Williams Town and Mdantsane in the Eastern Cape were selected and trained as peer counselors and educators by the project manager, Cecil Wood. Each group of approximately twenty youth attended a four-day workshop which covered topics such as: communication and relationships, transmission of HIV/AIDS, HIV/AIDS prevention, basic counseling skills, coping with loss and death and educating peers.
Young people were given the opportunity to practise their newly-learnt presentation skills in front of their peers who offered them some constructive feedback. Participants were divided into teams on the last day of the workshop to focus on developing strategies for reaching out to their peers with this life-saving information. A number of these young people are affected by the disease in some way and were highly motivated to spread the word to their peers.
The unique aspect of his program involves adult caregivers who provide support and supervision to adolescent peer educators/counselors, An AIDSCAP research finding suggests that efforts to create a professional support network for peer educators will be a worthwhile investment in sustainable HIV/AIDS prevention.
During April and May this year, forty adult caregivers and volunteers from various residential facilities and youth programs in and around King Williams Town and forty caregivers and volunteers from the Mdantsane area were trained separately in the care and management of all aspects of the HIV / AIDS pandemic in respect of children and youth at risk. Nomsa Mandoyi, the residential care manager at the King Williams Town Child and Youth Care Centre has been co-ordinating the project.
It is envisaged that the teams of peer educators would meet with their adult counterparts on a regular basis for emotional support, advice and de-briefing. Participants are taking this work very seriously and are determined to make a difference in their communities.
The project will be evaluated by the end of the year and offered for replication if found to be an effective intervention in relation to HIV/AIDS and youth at risk.
Child & Youth Care Vol.19 No.8 August 2001