Linkages across the Continuum of HIV Services for Key Populations Affected by HIV (LINKAGES) Project: Our Impact

A provincial antiretroviral therapy nurse, peer educator, and MWENHO peer navigator gather after a training. Photo credit: LINKAGES/MSH

Until LINKAGES Angola developed an instrument to assess a person’s risk for contracting HIV and identify key populations, the Associação de Mulheres Vivendo com o VIH e SIDA, or MWENHO, did not have a way of indicating with certainty if they worked with key populations or not.Through LINKAGES, MWENHO hired peer navigators—persons living with HIV who could mentor others on how to overcome the challenges of starting and adhering to treatment for HIV.

Counselors from Cuidados da Infancia accompany clients to a health facility. Photo credit: LINKAGES/MSH

While civil society organizations in Angola have improved their ability to reach key populations (KPs) through the cascade of HIV prevention and testing services, they faced challenges linking those who test positive to care and treatment. The rate of initiation of antiretroviral treatment (ART) in the first seven months of the LINKAGES Project was only 19 percent (11/53).To improve this rate, LINKAGES began investing in strategies to strengthen the bond between HIV counselors and clients.

Photo credit: LINKAGES/MSH

In September 2016, peer educator Sonia* was detained along with sex workers at a hot spot where she was conducting outreach on prevention of HIV and other sexually transmitted infections. After a long wait at the police station where she and the others were being held, Sonia was finally able to provide proof of her work to the police chief.

Role playing activity at a violence prevention and response workshop. Photo credit: LINKAGES/MSH

Gender-based violence (GBV) prevention services have been integrated with HIV prevention and testing services under the LINKAGES Project in Angola since 2017. Outreach workers from the Associação de Solidariedade & Ajuda Mútua (ASCAM), as part of their HIV-prevention messaging, now provide GBV awareness and support to those who experienced such attacks.Today, ASCAM’s teams no longer conduct HIV work without discussing violence prevention.

Participants gather at a violence prevention and response action planning workshop with representatives of the government, health facilities, and local partner organization, ASCAM, in Luanda, Angola. Photo credit: LINKAGES/MSH

In 2017, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) as a principal recipient of Global Fund (GF) funding for HIV at the request of the Government of Angola, approached MSH, the implementer of LINKAGES, with an offer to complement the minimum service package for female sex workers (FSW) in Luanda Province.

Police leaders at a LINKAGES training. Photo credit: LINKAGES/MSH

At the beginning of LINKAGES, peer educator Maria* was training female sex workers (FSW) on HIV prevention in a busy nightclub in downtown Luanda when police detained her. Maria spent several hours at the police station before she was able to explain that she was an outreach worker with the Associação Beneficente Cristã (ABC) under the LINKAGES Project.

A FOJASSIDA peer educator and lay counselor. Photo credit: LINKAGES/MSH

Working for the LINKAGES Project has been transformative for Majestade* and Rogério Vaduca in very different ways.As a homosexual, Majestade, 30, was suffering discrimination within his own strongly religious family.