René Berger is a director in the Global Health Division of Chemonics. He has more than 17 years of experience working with USAID and implementing partners as an HIV/AIDS expert. Mr. Berger has been involved with the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) since its inception and brings a strong understanding of the process and expectations of the initiative from both the Washington and field perspective.
What is the importance of the community-based workforce for delivery of HIV services, and how can this workforce be further leveraged to advance HIV goals?
Community-based workers play a number of key roles in supporting our effort to achieve epidemic control. Across the entire continuum — from identifying infected individuals, to linking them to treatment, and ensuring that they remain adherent to medications — community-based workers play an essential identification, linking, and motivating role. PEPFAR and USAID have seen the value of community-based workers. They assist in rolling out models of differentiated care. They also help to decongest health-care facilities of patients who do not need to see a clinician or other type of provider. Community-based workers may also lead or support community groups that facilitate the distribution of antiretrovirals. I strongly believe it will be the support that comes from the community that will help us reach the final milestone of viral suppression.
One of the many benefits of community-based workers is they are from the community and, therefore, know the community. They know who has been sick and when they’ve linked them with HIV care and treatment. They know who is receiving treatment for HIV and can help ensure that those individuals continue to take their medication and receive the follow-up care they may require. Ultimately, we may find that these community-based workers are also helping us defeat the stigma around HIV by showing the human side of HIV care.