What is Project Accept?

2007-12-20 00:00

From Helping Each Other To Help Others...

Project Accept is an HIV/Aids prevention trial led by the HSRC aimed at measuring the success of community mobilisation, mobile voluntary counselling and testing and post-test support in lowering HIV infection and changing the way communities think about and respond to HIV and Aids. The Vulindlela site is one of five sites in four countries, including Zimbabwe, Tanzania and Thailand.

The Vulindlela project has several parts, says director Heidi van Rooyen.

“The first is community mobilisation. We encourage leaders to test and lead by example; we also tap into social networks, and encourage those who have tested to encourage others to do the same.

“The second is mobile service delivery. We take the caravans into the community — to spazas, taxi ranks and anywhere that people gather, and offer a same-day, free counselling and testing service to them.”

Once people have been tested, the team offers psychosocial support and links people to other organisations for services such as ARVs.

Pre-delivery consultation with the community on a range of issues, such as the project’s geographical boundaries, helped to establish the credibility of the project on the ground.

“We’ve been sensitive to the community’s needs and we engage with them as often as possible,” says Van Rooyen. “The effects have been positive. There’s a sense of excitement from them about the intervention. It’s become part of their lives.”

There’s also evidence that the mobile VCT model is working and is attracting equal numbers of men and women. Van Rooyen says while the clinic model traditionally attracts a majority of women, the mobile model has managed to draw in close to equal ratios of men (49%) and women (51%). “So our model is male-friendly; it removes the costs usually involved in a visit to the clinic, like the need to take time off work and pay for transport to get to the clinic.”

Another success has been the project’s ability to attract young people. The average age of testers is 24, says Van Rooyen, “which is good because they are among the age group most at risk of HIV infection”.

Attendance at local social events organised by the project, such as soccer tournaments, has picked up, also suggesting a shift in community attitudes.

Over time, the project has adapted its services to suit the needs of the community. The operating hours of the mobile clinics, for example, are now roughly noon to 6 pm rather than 8 am to 4 pm.

Van Rooyen says that once the research is completed, it is hoped that the Department of Health, which already provides the test kits for the project and has put 300 counsellors through Accept’s training programme, will take over the mobile VCT clinics.

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