Over the last few months, HIV experts from the USAID Strengthening the Care Continuum Project (the Care Continuum) have shared insights into their progress reaching the UN 90-90-90 targets, the ways in which simple tech can increase HIV knowledge and enrollment in care, and how a rights-based approach to serving key populations (KPs) helps them to overcome barriers to accessing services. This is the fourth and final blog of the series.
If you’ve been following the blog series, you know that the Care Continuum works closely with civil society organizations (CSOs) in key areas to enhance the effectiveness of their interventions, strengthen the services they provide, and invest in their commitment to the KP community for long-term sustainability.
As the project’s Institutional and Technical Strengthening Advisor, I oversee capacity building for these organizations—assessing their needs and performance and supporting them as they alter their strategies, methods, and behaviors. Building the capacity of these organizations ensures that as a project, we more effectively engage those in care and share preventative information among those at risk.
For me, what makes JSI’s approach to capacity strengthening unique is the sincere intent to empower these organizations. It’s not just about meeting project requirements and more effectively reaching members of key populations. It is also about building a sustainable foundation for an AIDS-free future in Ghana.
Our approach is grounded in building trusting relationships and CSO leadership taking charge of their own growth processes. As a result, partner CSOs feel free to share their challenges and development needs. In situations where CSOs lack the proficiency to take control, we respectfully work with them to identify an advisor to support them until they gain the technical knowledge and experience they need.
So far, we’ve seen a marked difference in CSO performance as a result of our capacity building activities and embedded technical advisor support. In many cases, the Care Continuum has been able to help local CSOs refine their technical approaches and implement innovative strategies beyond the standard peer education and hotspot testing approaches. These include social and sexual network testing, targeted testing, and using social media tools to engage people in care. As a result, the CSOs have more effectively reached high risk and hidden KP sub-groups with HIV services and steadily increased Project HIV positivity and ART initiation rates.
These gains are not only representative of stronger HIV programs within individual CSOs but also of an emerging community of practice. To make the Project’s capacity building more sustainable, we have initiated regular learning exchanges and peer review meetings where each CSO shares new knowledge and best practices. These meetings help CSOs refine their efforts, provide a forum for advice and empathy, and establish connections between groups that will outlast the Project’s implementation.
In many ways, capacity building is both the foundation and the legacy of our work. As Ghana moves toward meeting it’s national HIV goals, these CSOs will have a strong foundation from which they can impact, or even lead, progress at the community level. This local ownership will be the true testament to our Project’s sustainability.
Read the rest of the blog series.