Introduction: Efforts to prevent vertical transmission of HIV have gained momentum globally since the launch of the ‘‘Global plan towards the elimination of new HIV infections among children by 2015 and keeping their mothers alive’’, reflecting the growing consensus that we now have low-cost, efficacious interventions that promise to end vertical transmission of HIV. Uganda is one of the 22 focus countries in the global plan and one of the 10 countries with the highest need for prevention of vertical transmission globally. In the context of current shortfalls in the prevention of vertical HIV transmission, this paper presents the results of the Networks project, a community mobilisation model implemented by the International HIV/AIDS Alliance in Uganda, and draws out the theoretical foundations and promising community mobilization practices relevant to prevention of vertical transmission.
Methods: A retrospective review of the Network project’s activities, documentation and evaluation was performed.
Results: The Networks project, through community mobilisation and greater involvement of people living with HIV, reached an estimated 1.3 million people with at least one health service. By clustering 750 groups of people living with HIV into larger coalitions, the project supported existing groups to amalgamate their collective strengths and skills in outreach, referral and literacy activities; and improved reach and coverage of HIV services through strengthened linkages with healthcare facilities. Our analysis of the Networks model shows that it could contribute to the prevention of vertical transmission of HIV as a replicable and sustainable community mobilisation approach. In particular, the Networks model increased the uptake of decentralized interventions for preventing vertical transmission through community referrals; promoted male involvement through peer sensitisation; and linked communities to advocacy channels for advancing maternal health and prevention of vertical HIV transmission.
Conclusions: By placing persons living with HIV at the centre, the Networks model offers a mechanism for strengthening community and male involvement in preventing vertical transmission of HIV. The role of communities and networks of people living with HIV in planning, service delivery and monitoring of national targets for prevention of vertical transmission should be further strengthened through greater community engagement in service delivery and advocacy and through the regular sharing of data between communities and health facilities.
(Published: 11 July 2012)
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