Peer Navigators Help Connect Thousands to HIV Care and Treatment Services in South Sudan

Photo by Galla Moses for IntraHealth International.

IntraHealth’s work on the Evidence to Action for Strengthened Reproductive Health for Women and Girls (E2A) Key Populations HIV Activity in South Sudan provides HIV prevention and treatment services for female sex workers and other priority populations, including their clients.

This year, the project has served over 7,500 people in Juba, Nimule, and Yambio with HIV prevention information and commodities, HIV testing, and linkage to HIV treatment services, sexually transmitted infections screening and treatment, and family planning.

“The collaboration with the E2A Project has made work very simple for us,” says Wani Martin, a clinician at Yambio Primary Health Care Center. He congratulated the E2A team in using appropriate approaches to continuously identify and link HIV positive female sex workers to treatment. 

These efforts helped link nearly 1,400 new people to HIV treatment services in quarter four alone.

Along with community-based antiretroviral therapy, peer navigation is one of the main approaches to increase the proportion of clients who tested positive for HIV and were linked to treatment. The project’s peer navigators—female sex workers who are typically HIV-positive and on treatment themselves—are trained to support HIV care and treatment at the community level. They conduct treatment literacy sessions, link newly identified HIV positive clients to care and treatment, help trace people who miss appointments, and support those who fall off treatment to reengage.

“Working with the active peer navigators of the project has strengthened the community-facility relationship, linkage to care, and follow up of clients in the community,” Martin says.

E2A also mobilizes trained peer educators to promote preventive behaviors and generate demand for high-quality HIV prevention and treatment services. They encourage their peers to take advantage of services, offer HIV-prevention education at the community level, and provide tools for safer sex such as condoms and lubricants.

"This has helped those under my care lean on me for support, feel loved, and have hope in life."

These efforts helped link nearly 1,400 new people to HIV treatment services, retain them, recover 40 who had fallen off their treatment regimen, and provide family planning services to nearly 200 in quarter four alone.

“I initiated antiretroviral therapy when I was constantly ill," said one peer navigator. "But I kept hope alive, and through my adherence to treatment, I am very healthy. I feel empowered by supporting others as a peer navigator through sharing my experience of how I coped with the HIV infection because this has helped those under my care lean on me for support, feel loved, and have hope in life.”

E2A is the US Agency for International Development's global flagship project for strengthening family planning and reproductive health service delivery. It is led by Pathfinder International in partnership with African Population and Health Research Center, ExpandNet, IntraHealth International, Management Sciences for Health (MSH), and PATH.