Community HIV/AIDS Mitigation Officer

Project Description

What makes Eswatini unique among African countries is that the Kingdom of Eswatini is one of the smallest countries in Africa and is the only remaining absolute monarchy. What makes Eswatini special is its welcoming, kind people and stunningly beautiful geography.

Despite its small population size, the Kingdom of Eswatini (formally the Kingdom of Swaziland) has the highest HIV/AIDS prevalence in the world. In 2003, Peace Corps reopened the Eswatini program to focus on halting the spread of HIV/AIDS and combatting its devastating impact on the Eswatini society. Since then, the country has made significant 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 largely made possible by rapidly scaling up the number of people accessing antiretroviral treatment.

However, the huge number of people living with HIV/AIDS in Eswatini means this is still 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 across all ages, genders, and at-risk groups. 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 working toward 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
Objective 2: Care, treatment, and support for youth living with and affected by HIV/AIDS and their families
Objective 3: Improve the community health system to better support people living with or affected by 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.
During the first three months in country, Peace Corps Trainees (PCTs) will engage in a newly designed Pre-Service Training (PST) which invites trainees to partner with our post staff to participate in comprehensive learning experiences to prepare trainees for swearing in to become PC Volunteers and for community integration. Trainees will experience an intense, fast paced learning environment comprised of self-directed learning, classroom, and blended learning experiences. Trainees will receive a basic (beginner) understanding of the local language, norms and culture, which include a strong emphasis on gender equity as Peace Corps Eswatini promotes gender awareness and girls’ empowerment as an educational initiative infused within our youth development work.

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 Participatory Analysis for Community Action (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.

In Eswatini, the distance between homes in a community is often no greater than 1 mile. All Peace Corps Volunteers (PCVs) 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 sizable jugs of water up to 1 mile from the community well or community water faucet/tap.

Communication: Almost all communication is conducted by cell phone and PCVs are provided the option of purchasing a dual-sim local device during Pre-Service Training with part of their Peace Corps provided settling in allowance. Cell service is based on the amount of minutes purchased and use (called Airtime) through one of two local cell service providers and incoming calls and texts (even from the US) are free. It is possible to access very slow Internet by purchasing a data package through the same cell service providers (MTN or Swazi Mobile).

COVID-19 Volunteer Activities

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
OR
• 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 at-risk 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 Trainees are required to achieve some level of local language competency during their PST. Please take a moment to explore the Language Skills Comments section below 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 Pre-Service Training 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 be sworn-in as Volunteers. Invitees will be expected to complete introductory language training modules online prior to arriving in Eswatini.

Living Conditions

Climate: The weather across the mountainous nation varies greatly, with seasonal weather changes from extremely hot summers (averaging 85-100 degrees Fahrenheit) to cold-rainy winters (averaging 40-60 degrees Fahrenheit). All applicants should be prepared to serve in either extreme and should bring appropriate clothing for cold, warm, hot, and rainy weather. Sun protection is needed for all seasons.

Housing: PCV housing is provided by the local community, and you are expected to live at the same standard as your local counterparts and community members. PCVs should be prepared to live without electricity and/or running water and use a pit-toilet as that is the norm for those living in rural communities. Some PCVs may live in houses with more modern conveniences, while others live in the more common single room semi-detached huts with a grass roof within a family homestead.

Host Family: In order to promote cultural integration, language acquisition, and safety and security, all Trainees/Volunteers live with a home-stay family during PST. 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 regardless of your age. PCVs must be open and willing to take part in this experience and participate in the daily life of their host family. You will even be given a local Swati name and Surname by your host family that you will be called by during your service. All Volunteers live within a shared family compound within individual living quarters. This experience is often the most enjoyable and rewarding part of a PCV's service.

Other Considerations: Living and working in Eswatini as a PCV can provide you the opportunity to experience deep personal and professional growth, which for many, has been a very rewarding and enriching experience. You will achieve this by experiencing both challenges and successes along the way.

It is important to note that for some, one of the challenges may be learning to operate within Eswatini’s restrictive laws, for example same sex partnerships are not recognized and are technically illegal. PCVs will need to be mindful of cultural norms, country-specific laws, and use their best judgment to determine how to approach topics related to sexual orientation and gender identity in their communities. 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. 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 within the United States. Still, when engaging with some individuals, PCVs who are of an American racial or ethnic minority, have visible disabilities, or whose religious or spiritual beliefs differ from the majority population of their country of service may experience discrimination or a high degree of curiosity or unwanted attention. 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 PCVs can take to enhance their own personal safety during PST.

Many Volunteers have been able to turn these encounters into learning experiences, sharing American values, norms, and identities and deepening local community members’ understanding of Americans.

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

Your partner must apply to the following position in Eswatini:

Youth Development Officer

Specific sites have been developed which contain a viable school and health clinic worksite for couples to maintain independent assignments while living within the same community and homestead. Couples will live separately during Pre-Service Training, with training host families, but will live together for the duration of their assignment after swearing-in, in their own separate living space with a host family.

Medical Considerations

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


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