'Think for yourself - Think for tomorrow': Exploring the impact of peer-led HIV intervention and psychosocial support groups for vulnerable youth in South Africa

OUTPUT TYPE: Research report- client
TITLE AUTHOR(S): S.Swartz, I.Van der Heijden, T.Runciman, M.Makoae, A.Rozani, N.Dube, M.Makiwane, A.Bhana
Intranet: HSRC Library: shelf number 6417

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This report, building on Swartz, Van der Heijden, Makoae et al. (2009), offers a contribution towards understanding three important phenomena in South Africa: the widespread effect of HIV/AIDS, the ongoing needs of orphaned and vulnerable children (OVC1) living in poverty and made extraordinarily vulnerable by the AIDS pandemic, and the promise of peer education to contribute towards meeting their psychosocial and HIV/AIDS educational needs. In partnership with the Harvard School of Public Health, the study examines, on a formative level, the impact that a structured, time-limited, curriculum-based peer-led intervention (entitled Vhutshilo 2) has on a group of vulnerable youth in periurban and rural areas. Since this is the first time the programme has been implemented and evaluated, apart from the impact measured, this evaluation set out to learn what parts of the curriculum and strategy work well; how to improve delivery and supervision; how best peer educators might be supported and their connection to group members promoted; and how or whether to engage parents and other community members. In other words, the goal was to demonstrate, and move towards institutionalizing an intervention that would be an affordable, practical, sustainable mechanism for meaningful prevention education and psychosocial support which we could reasonably expect to produce changes in attitudes, norms, intentions and behaviour as we improved both our intervention and our ability to measure it (Deutsch, 2010, personal communication). Before turning to the results of the study, including recommendations for curriculum improvement; comments on peer education as a strategy; the impact on youth participants, peer educators, and the organisations that implement the programme; and responses from community members including parents, this chapter seeks to place the study in context. It will consider youth vulnerabilities in general and in the context of poverty and HIV/AIDS; describe peer education as practiced in this study and elsewhere; and briefly situate peer education intervention in the context of policy frameworks locally and internationally.