“I took the initiative to adopt PrEP to avoid contracting the HIV virus.” Arlinda Wilson
Arlinda Wilson, a 21-year-old resident of the Micajune neighborhood, Quelimane District, is one of the 23,445 adolescents and young adults who benefited from Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) HIV prevention services in Zambézia Province during the reporting period (Q1 COP23).
In 2022, with the support of her mother, Arlinda applied for training as an FGH supported Prevention Champion volunteer. Her role involves identifying adolescents and young adults who are victims of gender-based violence (GBV), as well as those who are eligible for PrEP, and referring them for services. She delivers community lectures and supports the organization of meetings involving adolescents, young adults, and community and religious leaders to discuss issues pertaining to GBV, HIV prevention, care, and treatment.
Arlinda is allocated as a Prevention Champion to the Quelimane Secondary School and the 4 de Dezembro Health Facility. She also refers her clients to other health facilities, primarily the FGH-supported Micajune Health Facility, which is close to her home.
“I share my experience with young people who are the same age as me, addressing similar fears, challenges, or concerns, turning negative experiences into learning opportunities.”
Though some reject her message, Arlinda understands that persistence is critical for demand creation:
“At times, when I encounter difficulties in supporting young people, I seek assistance from the School Health Corner counselors and nurses at the health facility, who have been very helpful.”
Having volunteered for nine months, Arlinda has already referred more than 50 adolescents and young adults to PrEP services.
According to existing Ministry of Health guidelines, PrEP is offered to individuals 15 years or older who have a negative HIV test result and who are at high risk for HIV infection. Arlinda achieves better results in her activities at the beginning and end of the school year because students are usually more relaxed, allowing her to conduct lectures in classrooms, resulting in more referrals to health facilities.
Initially, PrEP services were provided at only 18 health facilities in Zambézia Province. Over the past five years, with the support of FGH and funding from PEPFAR, PrEP services have been expanded to a total of 129 health facilities, including to an additional 35 health facilities in Q1 COP23.
A total of 160 Prevention Champion volunteers actively contribute to PrEP demand creation activities, reaching 32,663 adolescent and young adult PrEP beneficiaries in Zambézia Province during Q1 COP23, of which 23,445 (72%) were adolescent girls and young women. Additionally, 854 healthcare providers, 1,279 lay counselors, and 2,022 community actors were trained in PrEP, communication skills, and human rights/advocacy-based packages to enhance provider-patient interactions and the overall quality of PrEP services.
Adolescents and young adults, 10 to 24 years of age, are considered by FGH as a priority population for HIV prevention initiatives during COP23, with adolescent girls and young women being the highest priority due to their specific vulnerabilities.
The partnership between FGH and provincial health authorities, with funding support from PEPFAR, continues to play a critical role in reducing HIV transmission in Zambézia Province.