Sébastien Ngala, a 28-year-old man, had just arrived at a mobile HIV counseling and testing site in the Kinshasa region after being contacted by a peer educator. He was hesitant at first, because of his unhealthy past and the number of casual partners he had known, but following consultation with the peer educator, and seeing some people around his age and others he recognized from his neighborhood, Sébastien agreed to get tested for HIV. He gave his blood sample, and then refused to stand far from the tent as he anxiously awaited the results. The news that came was good.
Sébastien jumped up with relief and said, “If this had been done in hospital, I never would have gone! Thank you for the services you have brought to the neighborhood.” As he left the tent, showing off his encouraging results and some dance steps, he shouted, "I won’t sleep anymore without a condom — and what’s more, I’ll come back with others!” Within a few minutes, Sébastien had been transformed from client into peer educator. By the end of the sessions on HIV awareness and testing, he had single-handedly recruited 15 of his friends to come in for testing.
The USAID Integrated HIV/AIDS Project in DRC is partnering with local nongovernmental organization Progress and Health Without a Price (PSSP) to implement mobile counseling and testing in the area around Kinshasa. The mobile units have surpassed expectations in their success with hard-to-reach populations, including outreach to most at-risk populations such as commercial sex workers, fishermen, miners, men who have sex with men, and others. The mobile testing units place the providers in the community, allowing them to better understand the community’s needs and any resistance they might have, and giving them the chance to use peer educators to make personal contacts with people and bring them to the test sites.
After Sébastien Ngala’s positive experience at the mobile unit, he helped catalyze the ripple effect that allowed the project and its partner to reach nearly 45,000 people by early 2011. Sébastien has since been recruited by the nongovernmental organization as a peer educator and continues to encourage friends his age to get tested.