Examining the Roles and Experiences of Community Adolescent Treatment Supporters (CATS) in Kumasi, Ghana

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Whittaker, Darby Pauline Anne
HIV/AIDS , Adolescents and Young Adults , Peer Leadership , Community-Based Participatory Research
Adolescents and young adults between the ages of 15 to 24 are a particular population of concern for HIV intervention. Mitigating high risk sexual practices can reduce the spread of HIV and lower risk of transmission. Integral to HIV management and medication adherence is proper psychosocial support and socially relevant resources for adolescents and young adults. In order to address the challenges faced by individuals between the ages of 15 to 24, Ghana Health Service implemented a peer leadership program which paired community adolescent treatment supporters (CATS) with adolescents and young adults living with HIV. CATS are HIV positive and display exemplary adherence to their medication, allowing them to support their peers that may be struggling with medication and other HIV related issues. This research was guided by four main objectives which sought to explore how CATS embody their roles, as well as how their efforts contribute to achieving the 95-95-95 targets. Further, we explored the barriers that adolescents and young adults living with HIV in Kumasi, Ghana face, as well as how strategies are utilized to overcome these barriers and how these experiences are gendered. To address these research objectives, we conducted semi-structured interviews with CATS (n=6), peer adolescents, young adults (n=18), and key informants (n=7) from clinics. Results from this research demonstrate the positive role that peer leaders play in advancing their peers along the HIV care continuum, as well as providing key insights into the barriers that adolescents and young adults living with HIV encounter. Findings from this study will help to illustrate the importance of peer leadership and its role in facilitating connections between adolescents and young adults who may be struggling, ultimately resulting in greater medication adherence and more positive health outcomes.
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