Diagnosing One to Save Many: Combatting HIV/AIDS at the Community Level

July 2, 2018 By Vyette Tiya

Amina knew she was very sick but she had never been tested for HIV – her fear of testing positive and the stigma surrounding the disease had kept her from seeking care. In Tanzania, convincing people like Amina to learn their status and start treatment is one of the most significant barriers health workers face in the fight against HIV/AIDS.

In partnership with the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), Jhpiego is breaking down barriers to care in Tanzania by providing HIV/AIDS testing, treatment and counseling at the community level. Through its highly effective Sauti program, community health volunteers and HIV counselors travel door-to-door in pairs throughout targeted regions – encouraging at-risk populations to get tested, starting those who test positive on treatment, escorting patients to local health centers, and following-up with patients as needed. Launched in 2015, the Sauti program is active in 14 regions throughout the country, which ranks among the most HIV prevalent countries in the world, despite significant progress over the last decade to control the epidemic.

The Sauti program’s focus on key and vulnerable populations – defined by the World Health Organization to include young women, adolescents, men who have sex with men, transgender persons, sex workers, and drug users – combined with its diligence in tracking down the past partners of HIV-positive patients has enabled the program to maximize its impact. Another key to the program’s success is its use of mobile technology. Community counselors use a smartphone messaging app to submit daily reports and share strategies, experiences, and words of encouragement – significantly improving the program’s coordination, communication and data collection.

In 2017 the program tested 505,274 people for HIV – 35,718 tested positive. 77 percent of those diagnosed with HIV were provided with treatment options – including Amina and her family.

Following a visit from a community health worker and counselor, Amina agreed to be tested for HIV and to have her six-year-old daughter Elizabeth tested as well. Both tested positive and began antiretroviral treatment. Soon after, Amina’s husband Michael also tested positive and joined his wife and daughter on medication.

Today, Amina and her family are healthier and stronger than they have been in a long time. Amina is focusing her energy on starting a business to support her family: “Now that my health has improved, I am looking for a small loan to start a small business of selling cassava chips. It’s a good business in this area.”

Thanks to Jhpiego’s program lives are not only being saved, but improved and Tanzania is one step closer to its goal of reaching epidemic control by 2020. As a key implementing partner for PEPFAR, Jhpiego has been a key contributer to the incredible success of America’s signature HIV/AIDS initiative – which this year marks 15 years and more than 14 million lives saved. It is partners like Jhpiego and programs like Sauti, that have helped bring PEPFAR to the brink of an historic first – achieving epidemic control worldwide, without a vaccine or a cure.


Amina’s story originally appeared here.