Community HIV/AIDS Mitigation Officer

Project Description

Despite its small population, the Kingdom of Eswatini has the highest HIV/AIDS prevalence in the world. In 2003, Peace Corps reopened the Eswatini program to support with halting the spread of HIV/AIDS and combatting its impact on Eswatini society. Since then, the country has made strides in addressing the epidemic; HIV/AIDS prevalence is now stabilizing and the number of new infections among adults has nearly halved since 2011. This achievement was made possible by rapidly scaling up the number of people accessing antiretroviral treatment.

However, the number of people living with HIV/AIDS in Eswatini means this is the country’s biggest public health concern. The good news is that the country is at a historic moment in their HIV/AIDS response. Eswatini has achieved HIV/AIDS epidemic control by ensuring that 95 percent of people living with HIV know their status, 95 percent of people who know their status access treatment, and 95 percent of people on treatment have suppressed viral loads. Over the course of the next few years, the country is at its last mile of intensifying its efforts on the fight against HIV. Working in concert with the government, international and local organizations, Volunteers in Eswatini are collaborating on maintaining and improving the gains that the country has achieved particularly by keeping vulnerable groups at the center of HIV response.

Community HIV/AIDS Mitigation Officers support comprehensive HIV/AIDS prevention and mitigation activities by working with youth ages 9-24; this includes orphans, other vulnerable children, and out-of-school youth. Through the direct provision of health promotion, education, and referral services, Volunteers partner with clinics, community centers, and community-based health workers, utilizing evidence-based prevention and mitigation programming. Within community clinics, Volunteers will work to improve the supply chain process to deliver and manage commodities for HIV/AIDS.

Volunteers address the key health challenges in Eswatini through the following main objectives:
Objective 1: Individual prevention of new HIV infection
• Increase knowledge and skills of youth ages 9-24 years – including in and out-of-school youth – to remain HIV-free
• Support improvement of the community environment to enable youth to remain HIV-free

Objective 2: Care, treatment, and support for youth living with and affected by HIV/AIDS and their families
• Collaboratively improve and strengthen support groups for youth living with HIV/AIDS
• Increase the knowledge and skills of vulnerable youth and their families living with or affected by HIV/AIDS to improve their wellbeing and resiliency

Objective 3: Work with partners to improve the community health system to better support people living with or affected by HIV/AIDS
• Improve the supply chain processes needed to deliver and manage commodities for HIV/AIDS

Volunteers will gain relevant work experience/skills in: facilitation, teaching, coaching, conflict management, community development, youth development, project management, grant writing & management, monitoring & evaluation, and cross-cultural communication.

Additionally, trainees will come to understand the value of Inter-cultural Competence, Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Accessibility (ICDEI&A) and how this affects all aspects of Peace Corps service. Trainees will fully engage in the principles and practices which explain Peace Corps' approach to development known as (PACA). This methodology places the community at the center of a Volunteer's term of service. Trainees will receive comprehensive safety, security, personal health, and resiliency training. Finally, Trainees will receive the fundamentals of technical (programmatic) training, which will be bolstered by in-service trainings scheduled after swearing-in. Trainees must successfully complete the full training package and achieve the minimum standards for language proficiency to be sworn-in for 24 months of Peace Corps Volunteer (PCV) service.

COVID-19 Volunteer Activities

In the past year, the world has been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. As a Volunteer, you will be trained in how to best protect yourself from COVID-19 exposure and understand the impact of and steps to reduce stigma related to COVID-19. You may also have the opportunity to engage with your community on implementing or enhancing COVID-19 mitigation activities, such as COVID-19 prevention and risk reduction strategies including social distancing, hand washing, mask wearing, addressing myths and misconceptions related to these practices, and vaccine hesitancy. Activities will be tailored to address the COVID-19 circumstances in the communities where you will serve.

Required Skills

Qualified candidates will have an expressed interest in working in the health sector and one or more of the following criteria:

• Bachelor of Arts/Bachelor of Science degree in any field.

• 5 years’ professional work experience.

Desired Skills

Highly competitive candidates will possess a strong desire to address community health needs for both adults and children and meet one or more of the following criteria:

1) Experience working at a health clinic or community health center.
2) Experience co-teaching or co-facilitating health training sessions or workshops for adults and youth.
3) Experience designing, implementing or evaluating community development projects in any context.
4) Experience working on HIV/AIDS projects or with sexual and reproductive health projects.
5) Experience working with summer camps, after-school clubs, implementing mentorship programs or working with orphans, vulnerable children, and/or youth.
6) Demonstrated leadership experience, including being a “self-starter” and creating structure in informal settings.
7) Experience working in pharmacies, hospitals, hospices, or related.
8) Proven experience learning a language is a plus. For social and work-related purposes, developing strong local language skills helps immensely in community integration process.
9) Former AmeriCorps, AmeriCorps VISTA, or Teach for America alumni, are encouraged to apply

Required Language Skills

There are no pre-requisite language requirements to qualify for this position. However, all Volunteers are required to achieve some level of local language competency during their Pre-Service Training. Please take a moment to explore the Language Skills Comments section to find out more about the language expectations during training and at site.

SiSwati is the national language in Eswatini and evidence indicates that developing local language skills is key to successful community integration. Trainees must achieve an intermediate level of fluency at the end of the Pre-Service Training (PST) in order to swear-in as a Volunteer. This means that individuals must actively pursue their language learning during training and will be expected to continue language lessons throughout their term of service through individual tutoring. Individuals who do not successfully meet the language standard of Intermediate Low will not become Volunteers. Invitees will be expected to complete introductory language training modules online prior to arriving in Eswatini.

Living Conditions

The Kingdom of Eswatini is one of the smallest countries in Africa. What it lacks in size, it more than makes up for with an immensely kind, caring and giving population. The mountainous country is the only absolute monarchy in Africa. Volunteers often feel at home in the rural areas, as community members display humor and generosity.

In Eswatini, the distance between homes in a community is often no greater than 1 mile. All Volunteers must be willing and able to walk up to 5 miles a day in some form of mountainous terrain to get to and from work and conduct errands. Volunteers often carry jugs of water up to 1 mile in these conditions from the community well or community water faucet/tap.

The weather across the mountainous nation varies, from cold winters (temperatures as low as 20 degrees Fahrenheit) in houses with little insulation, to hot summers (with temperatures as high as 100 degrees Fahrenheit). All applicants should be prepared to serve in either extreme and should bring appropriate clothing for both environments.

Volunteer houses are provided by the local communities and you are expected to live at the same standard as residents in your host community. Volunteers should be prepared to live without electricity or running water and use a pit-toilet. Some Volunteers may live in houses with more modern conveniences, while others live in single-room detached huts with a grass roof within a family homestead.

Almost all communication is conducted by cell phone. Peace Corps will help you buy your phone during PST if you did not bring an unlocked phone from the States. Call costs are based on the amount of minutes used and texts sent and are deducted immediately. Incoming calls and texts, even from the US, are free. It is possible for many to access very slow Internet or messaging apps through the purchase of small and inexpensive data plans for smartphones.”

Host Family:
In order to promote cultural integration, language acquisition, and safety and security, all Volunteers will live with a home-stay family during their Pre-Service Training period. (Note, this experience has been modified for the intake in 2022 due to COVID and will resume in 2023). Permanent host families (assigned after swearing-in) are asked to treat Volunteers as a member of the family, which means that you will be expected to follow the rules of the household. All Volunteers live within a shared family compound within individual living quarters.

Other Considerations:

Eswatini has some restrictive laws that target certain sexual acts. Volunteers will need to be mindful of cultural norms and country-specific laws, and use their best judgment to determine how to approach topics related to sexual orientation and gender identity in their communities and host countries. Staff will address this topic during PST and identify some potential support mechanisms for incoming trainees.

Through inclusive recruitment and retention of staff and Volunteers, the Peace Corps seeks to reflect the rich diversity of the United States and bring diverse perspectives and solutions to development issues. Please be aware that American concepts of politeness and appropriate behavior are not universal. Peace Corps works diligently to identify and train host country partners on the rich diversity and gender norms the United States. Still, when engaging with some individuals, Volunteers who are of an American racial or ethnic minority, have visible disabilities, or whose religious or spiritual beliefs differ from the majority of their country of service may experience discrimination or a high degree of curiosity or unwanted attention from host country nationals. Additionally, women may experience a high degree of unwanted attention from men when traveling outside of their assigned communities. Peace Corps staff will address the topic of unwanted attention and steps Volunteers can take to enhance their own personal safety during PST.

Serving in Eswatini

Learn more about the Volunteer experience in Eswatini: Get detailed information on culture, communications, housing, health, and safety -- including health and crime statistics -- in order to make a well-informed decision about serving.

Couples Information

Couples will live together with a host family for the duration of their assignment in their own separate house. (Note: for 2022, all Trainees will be living in the Peace Corps training center which accommodates couples).

Medical Considerations

Before you apply, please review Medical Information for Applicants to learn about the medical clearance process.

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