HIV/AIDS and Adolescent Health Volunteer

Before You Apply

You can only have one active Peace Corps Volunteer application, so choose a position that best fits your skills and interest. You have the opportunity to tell us if you’d like to be considered for other openings and more about the ones that interest you most! See application process

Project Description

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 youth 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. The period of adolescence coincides with the onset of behaviors that continue into adulthood, including, risk assessment, sexual debut and healthcare use.

As an HIV/AIDS and Adolescent Health Volunteer 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 health clinics, international and national non-governmental organizations, or community-based organizations. Working in collaboration with their counterpart organization staff and community members, Volunteers will be 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.

Depending on the needs and interest of community members, Volunteer activities may include co-facilitating the following activities:
• Clubs and camps for adolescents, girls and boys, which provide age and culturally appropriate messaging on HIV prevention.
• Gender-equitable sessions on HIV/AIDS prevention, care, and treatment with parents/caregivers of orphans and vulnerable children (OVC), including men and boys.
• Sessions on positive living for adolescents living with HIV (ALHIV).
• Economic-strengthening sessions for groups of OVC 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:
• Collaborate with health workers to implement the national standard operating procedures for creation of youth-friendly services at health facilities.
• Build the capacity of clinic staff to manage pharmaceuticals and commodities in their health facilities.
• Work with community organizations and health facilities to ensure quality data is being collected and reported.

Peace Corps Lesotho also integrates gender awareness and gender equity themes into all of its programs. Volunteers receive training on gender challenges in the country and have the opportunity to implement gender-related activities that are culturally and contextually appropriate. During service, Volunteers will look for ways to work with community members to promote gender-equitable norms, which will, in turn, improve health seeking behavior of girls and boys. As part of one’s work, Volunteers will also report on these efforts and their impact.

Pre-Service Training is intense. It blends language, culture, technical, personal health and safety elements together through group-based and individual learning as well as practical experiences. All trainees live with a host family in the training village throughout pre-service training, which supports cultural integration and continuous language learning. You will meet with Peace Corps Lesotho staff to assess your skills and interests in order to determine your site placement. You will be matched to a site and host organization based on a variety of factors. All Volunteers help their communities build capacity by implementing the activities listed above. Some site placements focus on one of these areas. Other site placements have opportunities in many of these areas.

This is a general description of the type of work conducted as a HIV/AIDS and Adolescent Health Volunteer in Lesotho. Every Peace Corps Volunteer’s experience and daily work differs depending on the resources, needs, and capacity of the community where they serve. 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!

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

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.

Learning the local language (Sesotho) is essential for integration and successful service, so PC Lesotho emphasizes language learning during Pre Service Training and throughout service.

Trainees must demonstrate at least an Intermediate-Mid level oral proficiency in Sesotho language after 11 weeks of language training.

Living Conditions

Lesotho is known as the “Mountain Kingdom” and you will find stunningly beautiful, mountainous terrain throughout the country. 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 work where there is no electricity and running water.

Peace Corps 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.

Most Volunteers use the main Peace Corps post office box in Maseru (capital city) to receive mail during their first few months until they move to their host community. It can take roughly two to six weeks to receive a letter posted from the United States. Once at their sites, Volunteers usually establish other ways to receive mail.

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. It is below freezing in winter and often snows heavily in the mountains, and therefore it is essential to bring warm clothing (layering is suggested) and bedding.

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.

Learn more about the Volunteer experience in Lesotho: 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 Lesotho welcomes couples. Your partner must also qualify and apply for a Health Volunteer position in Lesotho. Throughout Pre-Service Training the couple will share housing. The couple will enjoy the privilege of being addressed as 'ntate' and 'm'e’ loosely translated 'father' and 'mother' 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.

Medical Considerations in Lesotho

  • Lesotho may not be able to support Volunteers with the following medical conditions: asthma, including mild or childhood; cardiology; dermatology; insulin-dependent diabetes; gastroenterology; mammography; ophthalmology; requiring a psychiatrist for psychotropic medications support; some types of gynecologic support; seizure disorder; urology; ongoing counseling.
  • The following medication(s) are not permitted for legal or cultural reasons: Ritalin and Vyvanse. 
  • Volunteers who should avoid the following food(s) may not be able to serve: none identified. 
  • After arrival in Lesotho, Peace Corps provides and applicants are required to have an annual flu shot and mandatory immunizations.

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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