In South Africa’s informal settlements, residents build communities of improvised housing as they seek employment in the surrounding area. There is limited evidence on how to implement and the effects of HIV and violence prevention programming in these contexts.
Project SOAR and partners are addressing these knowledge gaps by conducting an evaluation of the PEPFAR/USAID funded Asibonisane Community Responses Program in South Africa. Specifically, the study will assess the effectiveness of this community-based HIV prevention program in informal settlements throughout KwaZulu-Natal—one of four provinces where the program is being carried out. The Community Responses intervention is a multifaceted behavior change intervention using an adapted and scaled version of Stepping Stones. The intervention is designed to promote uptake of HIV and sexual and gender-based violence support services, while also promoting equitable gender norms and a positive enabling environment. Project SOAR is evaluating the effects of the program among young adults (both men and women), including: uptake of HIV services (e.g., HIV testing services, care and treatment services); risky sexual behaviors (e.g., increase in consistent condom use); experience/perpetration of sexual and gender-based violence; and support for harmful gender norms (as measured by the gender equitable men [GEM] scale).
The evaluation will address a series of important research questions, such as what are the key factors within the informal settlement context that lead to HIV risk behaviors, what level of exposure to an intervention (dose) is needed to improve key outcomes, and how to best scale up group education models such as Stepping Stones.