Since 2016, Ace Africa has partnered with Comic Relief to improve access to quality health services for people affected by HIV/AIDS in Arusha District, Tanzania. The project was designed to tackle key barriers to service provision and breakdown stigma for people living with HIV/AIDS (PLWA).
Through baseline research, Ace found that there were high levels of stigma and discrimination around HIV/AIDS; 43% of adults were not tested and 82% of those were unwilling to test due to fear of prejudice and isolation. Limited knowledge and outreach provision also meant that PLWA were not accessing available services or the anti-retroviral therapy they needed. Over three years Ace has sought to change this and enable people living with HIV in Arusha to live positive healthy lives. The project has achieved this through three key approaches:
Knowledge and awareness of HIV/AIDS
Ace Africa has been praised for its innovative use of community drama to educate communities on HIV/AIDS and reduce stigma. The participatory performances were used to draw crowds of all ages and backgrounds and tackled particular misconceptions through their stories and engagement with the audience. Across the programme, Ace has seen 35,206 people attend health education and outreach events in Arusha.
Improving access to HIV testing, counselling and treatment services
Ace has utilised community drama and other innovative approaches to improve access to voluntary HIV counselling and testing. Ace Africa is now the largest provider of HIV testing services in Arusha District and has seen a 183% increase in people accessing sexual health services. At these events, Ace has provided access to HIV testing, TB screening, family planning and other health services, referral for those tested positive and advice on medication, and support by trained Ace Counsellors.
Strengthening capacity to deliver quality health services to people in need
Together with the Ministry of Health, Ace Africa facilitated training for 20 nurses on provision of ART, and 80 Community Health Mentors. Community Health Mentors have provided a life-line to vulnerable people living with HIV in remote rural villages in Arusha. They have also set up three support groups for PLWA, to share experiences, challenges and advice. The support groups and efforts by the mentors have helped vulnerable individuals to access health services more regularly, keep on medication and improve their overall health and nutrition.
Over the past three years, Comic Relief has supported Ace Tanzania to transform access to quality HIV services for people affected by HIV/AIDS in Arusha District. Throughout the project Comic Relief’s partnership approach has encouraged innovation and internal learning. With their support to develop the programme, Ace Tanzania was able to reach 35,206 people in Arusha with essential health services.