Community HIV/AIDS Mitigation Officer

The COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact Peace Corps domestically and internationally.

The information provided for each assignment is subject to change, including the tentative departure date.

Project Description

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. Over the course of the next few years, Eswatini seeks to achieve 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. Working in concert with the government, international and local organizations, Volunteers in Eswatini are working toward achieving the country’s “95-95-95” vision.

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 health 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 – including in and out-of-school youth – to remain HIV-free
• Improve 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
• 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: 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

During the first three months in country, Volunteers will undergo a comprehensive Pre-Service Training (PST) which will include local language, cross-cultural sensitivity, diversity & inclusion, safety & security, technical & programmatic, and personal health & resiliency training. Volunteers must successfully complete the full training package and fulfill the language requirements in order to be sworn-in for your 24 months of service. Please come prepared to fully commit to the 11 week training program.

Peace Corps Eswatini promotes gender awareness and girls’ empowerment as an educational initiative infused within our youth development work. During PST Volunteers will receive training on gender challenges and biases in Eswatini and will have the opportunity to incorporate gender-related activities into their work, where contextually appropriate.

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
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) Master of Public Health degree or Master of Arts/Master of Science degree in Public Health
2) Certified Physician Assistant or Public Health Nurse with expressed interest in public/community health
3) Bachelor of Arts/Bachelor of Science degree in Nutrition, Health, or Nursing
4) Experience working at a health clinic or community health center
5) Experience facilitating health training sessions or workshops for adults and youth
6) Experience designing, implementing or evaluating community development projects in any context
7) Experience working on HIV/AIDS projects or with sexual and reproductive health projects
8) Experience working with summer camps, after-school clubs, implementing mentorship programs or working with orphans, vulnerable children, and/or at-risk youth
9) Demonstrated leadership experience, including being a “self-starter” and creating structure in informal settings
10) Experience working in pharmacies, hospitals, hospices, or related
11) Proven experience learning a language is a plus. For communication and work-related purposes, developing strong local language skills helps immensely in community integration process.
12) Candidates with a Bachelors of Public Health, Nursing, Nutrition, or related health degrees/certifications, or 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 learn the local language during their 11-week Pre-Service Training. 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 developing local language skills is the key to successful community integration. Trainees must achieve an intermediate level of fluency at the end of the 11-week Pre-Service Training in order to swear-in as a Volunteer. This means that individuals must actively pursue their language learning during training. 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 easily feel at home in the rural areas, as community members display humor and generosity.

Moving Around Communities:
In Eswatini, the distance between homes in a community is often greater than 1 mile. All Volunteers must be willing and able to walk at least 5 miles a day in mountainous terrain to get to work and do daily errands. Volunteers often carry large jugs of water 1 mile in these same conditions from the community well.

Climate:
The weather across the mountainous nation varies greatly, from very cold winters (with average temperatures as low as 20 degrees Fahrenheit) in houses with little insulation, to extremely 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 cold and warm weather.

Housing:
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 as that is the norm in rural communities. 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 Pre-Service Training 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 expensive 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 11 weeks of training. Host families 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. Volunteers must be open and willing to take part in this experience and participate in the daily life of their family. All Volunteers live within a shared family compound within individual living quarters. This experience is often the most enjoyable and rewarding part of Volunteer service in Eswatini.

Other Considerations:
Living and working in Eswatini can be an enriching experience but it will certainly be challenging in ways that are different from anything you've experienced stateside.

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 and currently serving Volunteers will address this topic during pre-service training, and identify some potential support mechanisms for incoming trainees.

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 of the US. 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. Ethnically, nationally or racially diverse Americans may be asked where they are “actually from” or if they are “really” American.

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

Couples Information

Peace Corps Eswatini welcomes couples. Your partner must apply and qualify for the following position in Eswatini:

- Youth Development Volunteer

Couples will live together with a host family for the duration of their assignment in their own separate house. Please note, trainees should be prepared to be separated for the first eleven weeks of pre-service training.

Medical Considerations

Before you apply, please review Medical Information for Applicants to learn about the clearance process and other health conditions that are difficult to accommodate in Peace Corps service.


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