By Shawn Malone, Project Director, HIV/AIDS Gates Project in South Africa, PSI Global
In South Africa, where the HIV response has lagged in reaching men, PSI’s Coach Mpilo model has transformed the role of an HIV counselor or case manager into that of a coach and mentor who provides empathetic guidance and support based on his own experience of living with HIV. Coaches are men who are not just stable on treatment but also living proudly and openly with HIV. Situated within the community and collaborating closely with clinic staff, they identify and connect with men struggling with barriers to treatment and support them in overcoming those barriers, whether that means navigating the clinic or disclosing their HIV status to their loved ones.
PSI and Matchboxology first piloted the model in 2020 with implementing partners BroadReach Healthcare and Right to Care as well as the Department of Health in three districts of South Africa. Since then, the model has been rolled out by eight implementing partners in South Africa, employing more than 300 coaches and reaching tens of thousands of men living with HIV. To date, the model has linked 98 percent of clients to care and retained 94 percent of them, in sharp contrast to the estimated 70 percent of men with HIV in South Africa who are currently on treatment.
Given the success of the program, South Africa’s Department of Health and the United States President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) have each embraced the Coach Mpilo model in their health strategy and are embedding it in their strategies and programs.
“The men we spoke to [while I was traveling to South Africa for a PrEP project with Maverick Collective by PSI] were not only decidedly open to the idea of taking a daily pill…many were willing to spread the word and encourage friends to get on PrEP too. We were able to uncover and support this new way forward because we had flexible funding to focus on truly understanding the community and the root barriers to PrEP adoption. This is the philanthropic funding model we need to effectively fight the HIV epidemic, and it’s beneficial for all sorts of social challenges.”
– Anu Khosla, Member, Maverick Collective by PSI