Integrated HIV/AIDS Project in the Democratic Republic of Congo (ProVIC)
In the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), health systems remain weak almost a decade after emerging from conflict and government collapse. The country’s poor infrastructure creates barriers to accessing services, information, and timely technical assistance, and institutions continue to struggle to meet the needs of about 71 million people in a country the size of Western Europe.
Community-based solutions in a highly challenging environment
As institutions have limited capacity to serve highly fragmented communities, community-level organization can be a powerful strategy to better link people with the health services they need. The Integrated HIV/AIDS Project in the DRC (ProVIC) is leveraging this potential using the field-tested Champion Community model—an approach for grassroots, participatory mobilization, planning, and implementation—as a platform for identifying and delivering community-level HIV and other development initiatives. To date, we have reached more than a million people with HIV prevention messages and nearly 300,000 people with innovative HIV counseling and testing services—with signs of renewed social cohesion and increased demand for prevention services, particularly among those at risk. A video on the success of Champion Communities, can be found here.
Funded by the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), ProVIC is PEFPAR’s flagship project in the DRC, the largest community-based HIV/AIDS project in the country, and the first HIV/AIDS project in the country to use the Champion Community approach. The five-year, $49.6 million project currently operates in four HIV “hotspots”—Kinshasa and Bas-Congo in the west, Katanga in the south, and Sud Kivu in the east—and is now expanding services into the northern region of Province Orientale. In the north, we are including a focus on integration of community- and facility-based gender-based violence services to address higher women’s vulnerability to to HIV.
Partnering for effective programming
PATH leads a consortium of international partners that includes Chemonics International, The Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation, and the International HIV/AIDS Alliance, and we collaborate closely with private and public partners at many levels—from local to international—to combat the disease in this dynamic, challenging context. We help build the technical and organizational capacity of local nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), health facilities, and communities to provide mobile, community-based, and facility-based HIV counseling and testing (HCT) through innovative approaches like mobile nighttime HCT, and for vulnerable groups like sex workers, men who have sex with men, and truck drivers. We also target groups like youth and couples with messages on HIV and family planning.
Reaching vulnerable populations
ProVIC also works to better link mothers and their babies to high-quality services—by contributing to national guidance on combination HIV prophylaxis and early infant diagnosis, in line with the latest World Health Organization standards; using a ‘hub and spoke’ approach to better link community- and facility-based services; and expanding our support as a key player in the US government’s PMTCT Acceleration Plan. Our partners receive integrated trainings on PMTCT, and on providing services like tuberculosis and family planning; and they are equipped with training and tools to help them monitor and evaluate their progress.
Our care and support package importantly includes building the capacity of communities to self-organize, self-assess, and self-plan their own responses to address the needs of vulnerable populations like orphans and vulnerable children (OVC) and people living with HIV/AIDS (PLWHA). This includes advocacy and awareness campaigns, self-help groups for PLWHA, and legal and psychosocial support to combat stigma and discrimination among those infected for a sustained, locally-driven response to the epidemic. Further information on ProVIC can be found here.