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Refresher training for expert clients in basic HIV counseling

Counselor Brenda facilitating during the session on STIs
 TASO has always used communities to implement its programmes. It is one of the earliest lessons learned and  is one of the reasons why TASO has been successful in both programme and project implementation. 
TASO Mulago is the oldest branch of TASO. Being in the Capital city, it bears the weight of having to serve in the most populated part of the country. It serves a cross section of clients living in the urban and Peri-urban areas. Within these areas  are communities and each community has TASO clients living within it. Over the years TASO has trained those clients who are willing to come out about their HIV status, live as community models, volunteer as peer support members, are able to read and write and are willing to train their fellow clients within the communities in which they live. They are therefore seen as better informed and able to act as a link between TASO and the communities. These clients are called expert clients.

An expert client sharing her experience
Today, a group of expert clients is undergoing a refresher training in basic HIV counseling. This is because while many have been trained, the disease is quite dynamic, the age bracket of the most affected has shifted to include even the elderly and yet 10 years ago it was the youth who were most affected.The team of expert clients is being trained by a number of counselors each with a different topic to handle. The topic I found under discussion was on Sexually Transmitted Infections. 

Participants listening to the Facilitator
As an observer, it is interesting to note that the expert clients are indeed experts. They have a wealth of knowledge, are very open to sharing, are not shy to discuss matters concerning sex and sexuality and the sessions are highly interactive. Nobody is left out especially since the training is bilingual (English and Luganda -the local language within the Capital City). The clients encourage each other and share experiences. The experiences shared are not read or hearsay, but rather their own life experiences as people living with HIV. And while some are funny and have some of the members giggling, others are sad and you can feel the pain of the person describing what they went through. 
A member writing down points from their group discussions
This then contradicts the various statistics that show that one of the reasons as to why HIV is on the rise is because people do not have the information. This team of expert clients is made up of regular people, with various backgrounds who are doing a lot to support their communities especially in information and knowledge sharing. Where then is the problem? Why are there still new infections? 


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