Task-shifting and peer support is being promoted as an important way for delivering HIV and mental health care in low resource settings. In Zimbabwe, the Zvandiri programme trains HIV positive young people between the ages of 18 and 24 as peer supporters, called CATS (Community Adolescent Treatment Supporters), who provide information, counselling, monitoring and support for children, adolescents and young people living with HIV through home visits, clinic visits, support groups and mHealth.
The programme has been highly successful at improving mental and physical health outcomes in beneficiaries. However, it is important that the programme is able to support the CATs to maintain their own mental wellbeing and adherence to treatment.
The SHM Foundation responded to a challenge by Positive Action Challenges (PAC) and Africaid, seeking an innovative solution that will help support CATs with issues that they are faced with. The innovation was to be one that compliments the Africaid Zvandiri model.
The SHM Foundation team ran a number of participatory co-design workshops with CATS (Community Adolescent Treatment Supporters) in both rural and urban settings to define the specific barriers and mental health needs of the peer supporters.
Through these workshops, we decided to pilot a two-pronged intervention. First, a Zvandiri Lounge – a peer-to-peer anonymous support platform. 60 CATs are put into 6 groups of 10 peers to discuss issues they may be facing in their lives and work. 6 CATs were given specific training to act as ‘mentors’ in the groups. Topics discussed within the groups were suggested by the peer supporters during the workshops. The groups are facilitated by SHM staff, SHM peer mentors in South Africa and trained Zvandiri peer supporters.
Second, a Zvandiri Tool Box – a set of resources for CATs will be designed based on the topics and challenges they raise in Zvandiri Lounge. These may specifically focus on the transition beyond the age of 24, disclosure, grief and economic sustainability.
The Zvandiri launch has been successful. CATs have been discussing issues and challenges they are faced with in the groups. The pilot will come to a close in early 2020, and participants will complete a post-intervention interview.