HIV/AIDS and Adolescent Health Advocate
Do you see yourself supporting your host organization to teach 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 support leading? 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 23%. 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.
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.
Qualified candidates will have an expressed interest in working with Youth 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). 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 few communities primarily in the south of the country where two other languages are commonly used (isiXhosa and Sephuthi). For Volunteers who are placed here basic communicative language skills will be provided during PST as well.
Volunteer sites vary from rural areas to remote areas to small towns. Volunteers live and work in either district capitals, referred to as camp towns, or rural villages. Camp towns house government offices and serve as the main business hub for the district.
Volunteers often walk from around 1–3 miles before reaching their work site or where they can access public transportation. Volunteers use public transport when shopping in camp towns to purchase supplies and when traveling to activities in the country.
During the 11 weeks of pre-service training, Volunteers stay with host families. At their permanent sites, the majority of Volunteers live in a family compound near the health facility or organization. The houses may be one- or two- roomed, thatched or corrugated iron roofed buildings made of stone, brick, or cement blocks (couples will have a two-roomed house). The Volunteer should expect to use an outdoor pit latrine and fetch water from a stand pipe in their home compound or from a village pump, and use candles, lanterns, and solar-powered lamps for light. Volunteer houses with electricity and running water are extremely rare.
Cell coverage varies throughout the country. Some Volunteer sites have great coverage and others requiring a small trek to get coverage. Volunteers are encouraged to bring a laptop which increases options for internet access and enables Volunteers to complete required assignments off-line and upload them later.
Most entertainment and recreation will be that which you create yourself: being social, playing sports, exercising. Lesotho does not have a bustling nightlife or many organized recreational activities. Most Volunteers shop in their village or closest 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 become familiar with Basotho food that consists of a stiff maize meal (corn meal) porridge called “papa”, well-cooked greens called “moroho” and a meat dish called “nama”. Fruits and vegetables are available but can be expensive and are limited and dependent upon the season.
Lesotho has distinct seasons. It is freezing in winter and often snows in the mountains, while hot in the summer, therefore you need to bring warm clothing. The Peace Corps office will provide a propane heater for your use as well as 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.
COVID 19 is still a global concern though the numbers have significantly decreased in country. Being one of the pilot countries for COVAX, more people continue to be encouraged to vaccinate. Mitigation measures continue to be practiced: compulsory mask wearing, observing social distancing, and good hand hygiene. Self-quarantine is encouraged for those testing positive and selected host families have vaccinated. Volunteers will be expected to collaborate with their project partners to create awareness around COVID in their communities and the importance of vaccinating against the virus
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 qualify and apply for this project.
If the couple both belong to the Health Program, 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. Each member of the couple will be assigned to a different host organization. Most likely the house will be located closer to one of the host organizations, meaning one member of the couple will work nearby whilst the other will work at a distance from the house (but less than 3 miles).
The Peace Corps works to foster safe and productive assignments for same-sex couples, and same-sex couples are not placed in countries where homosexual acts are criminalized. Because of this, same-sex couple placements are more limited than heterosexual couple placements. During the application process Recruiters and Placement Officers work closely with same-sex couple applicants to understand current placement opportunities. For more information please visit: https://www.peacecorps.gov/faqs/lgbtq/.
Before you apply, please review Medical Information for Applicants to learn about the medical clearance process.
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