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Health & Behavior Studies
Teachers College, Columbia University
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Group10 > Ashley Gleitman Leads HIV/AIDS Peer Education in Africa

Ashley Gleitman Leads HIV/AIDS Peer Education in Africa

HIV/AIDS Peer Education Training in Togo, Africa

Ashley Gleitman, Health Education MA candidate and Training Fellow with The Research Group on Disparities in Health, shares her story

Ashley Gleitman and the Chief of Ketao

At the beginning of 2008, I received a fellowship from the Research Group on Disparities in Health (RGDH) at Teachers College, Columbia University, working with Professor of Health Education and Director of RGDH, Dr. Barbara Wallace.  The project, titled “Capacity Building for Local and Global HIV/AIDS Prevention,” afforded me the opportunity to adapt, implement, and evaluate a four-week training to teach people to become peer educators in HIV prevention.  I chose to implement the program in the village of Ketao, in the northern region of Togo, because my college roommate, Aimee De la Houssaye, is currently a Peace Corp volunteer in that village. Aimee had recently helped to open an HIV clinic, and we saw peer education as an ideal next step to address HIV/AIDS in her community.

I traveled to Ketao in July of 2008.  During my first weeks in the village, I met with officials and potential trainers to establish the space and recruitment process for the training.  The training took place four days a week for five hours each day.  I trained three trainers and 43 village members to become peer educators for HIV prevention.  The training was based on Dr. Barbara Wallace’s manual, “HIV/AIDS Peer Education Training Manual: Combining African Healing Wisdom and Evidence-Based Strategies for Behavior Change” (2006, StarSpirit Press).  The training included lessons encouraging teambuilding, strengthening social support, and empowering the participants to arrive at the desired stages of safety (i.e., stages of change, moving toward taking actions to stay safe from HIV/AIDS transmission).  Thus, the training included lessons on HIV transmission and prevention, cultural practices, seroconversion, HIV/AIDS medications, universal precautions, and other culturally relevant information.  The participants engaged in a range of activities, discussions, and created songs and sketches for imparting prevention information.

While there was a significant increase in knowledge from baseline, the greatest achievement of the 43 peer educators is the work that they will continue to do in the community.  Once the training ended, Aimee and I were fortunate enough to receive a grant from the Peace Corps to continue this project.  Since my return home to New York, Aimee reviewed proposals from the peer educators and chose to fund three projects: (1) an HIV club in the high school that will include watching and discussing films, dancing, singing, and painting; (2) a series of community radio shows; and (3) the production of Moringa, a plant with health benefits for people living with HIV/AIDS, and also an income generating activity.  Many of these projects were formulated during the training.

To read the full length article on my experience and to see more photos, please visit the Global HELP website,