This past month, OHR has officially begun one of our biggest program expansions to date! Years in the making, our team on Mfangano has now begun identifying patients at local clinics who might benefit from additional support help stay on life-sustaining HIV treatment. Over the coming months, our team will help organize nearly 400 patients – and their self-identified social networks – into health teams called kanyaklas. In total, three to four thousand people will participate in a kanyakla (or microclinic) over the next two years on Mfangano and neighboring Ringiti and Remba islands.
Kanyakla groups will learn together about HIV and how they can collectively promote one another’s health. Groups will go through a series of structured discussion sessions, complete with role-plays and team building activities. These sessions will be led by local community health workers using beautiful new curriculum materials developed in conjunction with Mango Tree, a Ugandan design firm. After learning together, each group will take a collective leap of faith in the strength of their commitment to one another and will participate in a group HIV status disclosure session. By being fully transparent about one another’s HIV status, these groups will become a powerful platform for helping support those who are in need of HIV treatment.
The microclinic program was rigorously tested during a pilot study from 2011 to 2013 (see scientific publication of our results). During that evaluation, we determined that the intervention reduced drop out from HIV care by 50%. Simple interventions with this degree of effect have potential for tremendous impact in a region where up to one third of patients starting HIV therapy drop out of care within the first two years. We aim to leverage the powerful forces of social ties to make health ‘contagious’ across social networks, throughout communities, and across the wider region.