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Community caregivers: the backbone of HIV care and support programmes


Community caregivers are the backbone of effective HIV care and support programmes according to a multi-country study funded by UNAIDS and Cordaid and conducted by the Caregivers Action Network (CAN) and Cordaid. The research, carried out in Ethiopia, Malawi, South Africa and Zambia, focused on home-based care concerning HIV prevention, treatment, care and support.

Findings from the research confirm that community caregivers play an invaluable service delivery role and are an essential component of each country’s primary health care system. According to the study, the role of community caregivers has shifted from basic home-based care functions such as visiting and caring for the sick to clinical and social support functions such as delivering medicines, adherence and psycho-social support.

The report highlights that social-support services for people living with HIV are becoming as important as clinical services with adequate food and nutrition, stable incomes and psycho-social support emerging as fundamental priorities.

“The role of community caregivers in addressing stigma and mobilizing people to know their HIV status and seek timely HIV prevention and treatment remains essential,” said UNAIDS Country Co-ordinator for Zambia, Helen Frary.

The general trend outlined in the report shows a tendency from health ministries toward creating a professional community caregivers workforce that works with and extends the reach of formal health care to communities and homes. However, the study warns about the need for caregivers to have access to social protection—such as income generating opportunities or remuneration—to enable them to provide essential care giving services without falling into further poverty themselves.

“This multi-country study clearly demonstrates the crucial role played by community caregivers in the HIV response,” stated CAN facilitator Rachel Albone. “It highlights the need for their expertise and experience to be recognized and appropriately remunerated in strategies to strengthen primary health care.”

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Information in this article was accurate in September 9, 2013. The state of the art may have changed since the publication date. This material is designed to support, not replace, the relationship that exists between you and your doctor. Always discuss treatment options with a doctor who specializes in treating HIV.