Sub-Saharan Africa accounts for two-thirds of people living with HIV globally. Youth in the region, particularly young women and girls, are disproportionately vulnerable to the virus because of associated stigmas and limitations in testing and treatment access. Zvandiri, a non-profit program run by Africaid, was created in 2004 as a response to this issue. The initiative connects youth living with HIV to trained counsellors also living with HIV called Community Adolescent Treatment Supporters (CATS). Through peer support initiatives, CATS improve access to HIV testing and treatment while also providing mental health support to other youth living with HIV their communities. Their holistic and peer-based approach is the linchpin to Zvandiri’s success. The organization has expanded to 9 African countries with 1600 CATS supporting 56,000 youths. They aim to expand their model to 20 countries by 2030 and reach 1 million youth living with HIV.
This case report will examine the operations of Zvandiri’s Young Mentor Mother (YMM) program. The YMM initiative operates in a similar way to the CATS model, with the key difference being that all of its mentors and clients are young mothers living with HIV. Our report will explore the ways in which these more specific shared experiences impact the efficacy of the YMM model, as well as the challenges and successes that it has faced so far in bolstering young mothers’ access to HIV testing and treatment. Since the YMM program has only been implemented in parts of Zimbabwe thus far, the report will have a particular focus on the potential for scaling the program to other regions and countries in Sub-Saharan Africa.