Introduction Sustaining interest and membership of Support Groups (SG) was a huge challenge after the withdrawal of material incentives. SGs were initially provided with material supports as incentives however this was not sustainable. SG membership and meeting attendance dropped drastically to <10% in some cases. This challenge led to an innovation: using effective and activity oriented SG meetings to improve SG membership and attendance in north-central Nigeria.
Methods In 2012, the PEPFAR-USAID funded Pro-ACT project implemented by MSH conducted a data audit to know the number, frequency of PLWHAs who attend monthly support group meetings (SGM), and activities. Six members from three SGs were trained on conducting effective SGM and facilitating viable income generating activities. The SGM facilitators conducted meetings with specific agenda which incorporated health education, adherence; information sharing, psychosocial support and IGA.
Results A review of the intervention after six months showed an increase in SG membership and attendance from <10% to 70% after the intervention, the trained SG facilitators used a well-organized agenda and completed the SGM within 90 to 120 minutes making SGM more effective, efficient and productive. They facilitators included follow-up visit to members' homes to ensure drug adherence and participation in SG activities. The PLHWAs now have a sense of ownership and belonging of the SG and facilitate their SGM with minimal support. They have also formed a Savings and Loan Association (SLA) in the process of transforming the support group to a CBO and have succeeded in accessing grant worth #4.5 Million ($28,125) from FADAMA III Grant.
Conclusion PLHWAs participate more during SGM when given the opportunity to own their SG. Facilitating SGs affords them the opportunities to improve adherence, strengthen group formation and also access local fund for development. Organizations implementing HIV programs need to identify the opportunities of SGs been self-sufficient.
Disclosure of interest statement This work was carried out in Nigeria by Management Sciences for Health on the project Prevention Organizational Strengthening, AIDS, Care and Support (Pro-ACT).
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