HIV/AIDS and Adolescent Health Advocate
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.
Can you imagine stepping out the front door of your mokhoro (rondavel) taking in the view of valleys falling below you and the mountain peaks disappearing into the distance as your village wakes up in the morning? Do you see yourself teaching life skills in a night school for balisana (shepherds) or helping establish youth-friendly health services at your local health center? Can you see the light of opportunity and empowerment take hold in an adolescent girl who attends the Girls Leading Our World (GLOW) club you help lead? Bo-‘M’e le Bo-Ntate (Ladies and Gentlemen), take a closer look at the Mountain Kingdom of Lesotho and consider working hand in hand with the Basotho people to deliver on the promise of an HIV/AIDS-free generation.
In Lesotho, a country completely encircled by the Republic of South Africa, the prevalence of HIV among adults is over 25%. Among children, however, the rates are slightly over 2%. Adolescents and young people represent the key to ending the HIV epidemic in Lesotho; however, they face many challenges accessing prevention, care, and treatment services, resulting in new infections and lower rates of viral suppression.
As an HIV/AIDS and Adolescent Health Advocate you will work in the prevention of new HIV infections among adolescents, increase access to gender-equitable care, support and treatment services for adolescents, and support the strengthening of health systems in Lesotho. Volunteers work within governmental and Christian Health Association of Lesotho (CHAL) health clinics, international and national non-governmental organizations. Working in collaboration with their counterpart organization staff and community members, Volunteers are involved in facilitating, mentoring, training, linking to services, and drawing services to their communities by networking with organizations working across the spectrum of health services and support.
Volunteer activities may include co-facilitating the following activities:
• Clubs and camps that provide age and culturally appropriate messaging on HIV prevention.
• Gender-equitable sessions on HIV/AIDS prevention, care, and treatment.
• Sessions on positive living for adolescents living with HIV.
• Sessions on economic-strengthening for groups of orphans and vulnerable children and their caregivers.
• Evidence-based trainings to improve the knowledge and skills of health care workers to provide gender-equitable and age-appropriate youth-friendly services.
Other activities may include:
• Collaborating with health workers to implement the national standard operating procedures for creation of youth-friendly services at health facilities.
• Building the capacity of clinic staff to manage pharmaceuticals and commodities in their health facilities.
• Working with community organizations and health facilities to ensure quality data is being collected and reported.
Peace Corps Lesotho promotes gender awareness and girls’ education and empowerment. You will receive training on gender challenges in your country and you will have the opportunity to implement gender-related activities that are contextually appropriate. During your service, you will look for ways to work with community members to promote gender-equitable norms and increase girls’ sense of agency. As part of your work, you will also report on these efforts and their impact.
Every Peace Corps Volunteer’s experience and daily work differs depending on the resources, needs, and capacity of the community where he/she serves. During the first three months at site, Volunteers conduct community assessments, build relationships, and work together with community members to identify community needs and priorities that fit with the Peace Corps Lesotho Health Sector framework and plan the projects that will be implemented throughout the Volunteers’ two years of service.
Should you choose this as your assignment, you undoubtedly have an incredibly rewarding service ahead of you!
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.
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
Competitive candidates will also have one or more of the following:
• Bachelor of Arts/Bachelor of Science degree in Public Health
• Bachelor of Arts/Bachelor of Science degree in Social Work or Licensed Social Worker with youth experience
• Knowledge and experience working on HIV/AIDS prevention and/or with people living with HIV/AIDS
• Demonstrated leadership and community organization skills, including public speaking and presentation skills
• Interest in and ability to model, coach, and mentor adolescents
• Experience with vulnerable youth and/or life skills education
• Monitoring and evaluation experience
Required Language Skills
There are no pre-requisite language requirements for this position.
There is a strong emphasis and high priority on learning and speaking the local language (Sesotho) spoken throughout the country. Volunteers will be more successful in community integration the more frequently they use local language skills.
Trainees must demonstrate at least an Intermediate-Low level oral proficiency in Sesotho language after 11 weeks of language training.
Do note that there are a few communities primarily in the south of the country where two other languages are commonly used (isiXhosa and Sephuthi). For Volunteers who are placed in this area basic communicative language skills in the local languages will be provided during training as well.
Volunteers often walk significant distances on dirt roads or mountain trails to reach more remote villages. Some Volunteers are placed in or near camp towns (district capitals) which are smaller towns. Most Volunteers can obtain public transportation near where they work and live; however, some may have to walk a mile or two before accessing a bus or taxi. They might work where there is no electricity and running water.
Volunteers in Lesotho are expected to live at the same level as their fellow community members. Therefore you must be prepared for a number of hardships and for a lack of many of the amenities that you are accustomed to in the United States. The majority of Volunteers live on a family compound. Your house may be a one- or-two roomed, thatched, or corrugated iron (tin) roofed building made of mud, stone, brick, or cement blocks. You should expect to use an outdoor pit latrine and fetch your own water from a stand pipe in your home compound or from a village pump. Because you will most likely be without electricity, you will use candles, lanterns and solar lights for light. Volunteer houses with electricity and running water are extremely rare.
Cell coverage varies throughout the country with some Volunteer sites having excellent coverage and others requiring a walk of up to half a mile to make or receive calls. Volunteers are strongly encouraged to bring a laptop which not only increases options for internet access, but also enables Volunteers to complete required assignments off-line and upload them at a later date.
Most entertainment and recreation will be that which you create yourself…hanging out with friends, playing sports, exercising, hiking, etc. Lesotho does not have a bustling nightlife or many organized recreational activities. Most Volunteers shop in their village or closest camp town, which has larger shops that carry basic supplies. Some camp towns have supermarkets that offer a variety of produce, meats, and other goods.
You will soon become familiar with traditional Basotho food that consists of a stiff maize meal (corn meal) porridge called “papa”, well-cooked greens (spinach, Swiss chard, or cabbage) called “moroho”, and a meat dish (mutton, beef, or chicken) called “nama”. Seasonal fruit is available in many parts of the country but can be expensive and vegetable variety can be limited depending upon the season. Patience, flexibility, and tolerance on your part will be very important.
Lesotho has distinct seasons with hot summers and cold winters. Winter is below freezing and it often snows heavily in the mountains, and therefore it is essential to bring warm clothing (layering is suggested) The host organizations will provide a propane heater for your use whilst Peace Corps will provide heating allowance during the winter (Apr-Sep).
Many of the Volunteers’ counterparts, neighbors, and students could be affected by HIV. Some are HIV-positive, while others may be orphaned and/or caring for family members living with HIV. To help manage a social and work environment where support is needed by those affected by HIV, Peace Corps trains Volunteers on healthy and appropriate coping mechanisms and expects Volunteers to be positive role models for those with whom they work and live.
While people in Lesotho may be generally tolerant, values and mores concerning sexual orientation and gender identity may be different from those in some parts of the U.S. Volunteers will need to be mindful of cultural norms, and use their judgment to determine the best way to approach sexual orientation and gender identity in their communities and host countries. Staff and currently serving Volunteers will address this topic during pre-service training (PST), and identify support mechanisms for incoming trainees.
Serving in Lesotho
Learn more about the Volunteer experience in Lesotho: 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.
Peace Corps Lesotho welcomes couples. Your partner must also apply and qualify for the HIV/AIDS and Adolescent Health Advocate position.
Throughout pre-service training the couple will share housing. They will often, however, be separated during some training sessions, particularly in language. The couple will enjoy the privilege of being addressed as 'ntate' and 'm'e’, which is loosely translated 'father' and 'mother' and a sign of respect by both young and old. The couple should be prepared to share one room throughout training and in some instances even at sites. This could be a challenge for those who would prefer more space.
Before you apply, please review Medical Information for Applicants to learn about the medical clearance process.
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