Linking People to HIV Counseling and Testing
HIV Counseling and Testing (HCT) remains a critical entry point to other HIV- and AIDS-related services: initiation of anti-retro viral therapy, Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission of HIV (PMTCT) and many others. In relation to this, BRIDGE II promoted HCT in all its catchment areas in southern Malawi through its various activities and campaigns: the Tasankha mass media campaign, Transformative Tools, and other community mobilization activities such as open days.
- The Tasankha campaign: The second phase of BRIDGE IIs’ Tasankha (“We have chosen”) mass media campaign focused on linking people to HIV prevention services, with HIV counselling and testing as the entry point. The campaign encouraged all community members (couples, men and women, pregnant women, boys and girls) to go for HIV testing, know their status and make better choices for their future. The project developed posters and radio spots that underlined the benefit of knowing ones’ status and the services that are available for people who are HIV positive.
- Chenicheni Nchiti?, the BRIDGE II flagship radio program, also promoted HCT through personal testimonies of people who dealt with the realities of knowing their HIV positive status and developed strategies to live positively. This gave hope to many people who consequently went for HCT.
- Transformative Tools: BRIDGE II used its Transformative Tools such as the Tasankha Community Discussion Guide, A Happy Married Life: A Couple Counseling Guide and the Journey of Hope toolkit during community discussions and community wide events to promote HCT.
- Community Wide Events: BRIDGE II took advantage of community mobilization activities such as open days and road shows to link people to HCT services by collaborating with nearby health facilities to set up mobile HCT sites during these events. This approach worked well because people were motivated to get tested after hearing encouraging messages and it was easy to take the next step of testing with the services so accessible. People living with HIV also gave testimonies during these functions on their positive living strategies. Over 30,000 people were tested for HIV during open days organized by BRIDGE II.
- Community Referral Work: the project worked with community referral agents who referred people to HIV prevention services, including HCT services.
- Workplace Interventions: Some workplace institutions in southern Malawi partnered with BRIDGE II to implement HIV prevention activities. Some of these activities like the use of the Tasankha Community Discussion Guide and the Journey of Hope toolkit encouraged people to go for HCT services. Eastern Produce, one of the workplaces implementing BRIDGE II activities indicated that they noticed an increase in the number of employees and families seeking HCT services since the start of BRIDGE II activities in their estates. These observations encouraged management of Eastern Produce to continue expanding BRIDGE II activities.