WHO recommends peer support, including peer counseling, for adolescents and young people living with HIV age 10-24 years (AYPLHIV). Peer support enables providers, programs and services to be more responsive, acceptable, sustainable and relevant, encouraging AYPLHIV to seek and remain engaged in care.
Peer support activities range from support groups to peer-to-peer counseling and treatment buddy programs. Generally, AYPLHIV are formally or informally engaged as peer supporters at health facilities or in communities to provide care for and promote the health and well-being of their peers. A peer supporter can be a peer, or a near-peer (someone a few years older who understands the needs of AYPLHIV). In all cases, the aim is to ensure a source of empathic support and share positive coping strategies.
Studies show that peer support can improve AYPLHIV linkage, adherence, viral suppression, retention and psychosocial well-being. Peer support models can also provide young peer supporters with opportunities for leadership development, capacity-building and youth-led advocacy, helping to combat the negative effects of self-stigma and peer pressure.
This is part of a series of 12 policy briefs by the Child Survival Working Group on scaling up key interventions for children and adolescents living with HIV. Learn more.