Health, HIV and AIDS

Health, HIV and AIDS

Everyone should be able to access healthcare.

VSO works in 17 countries across Africa, Asia and the Pacific to try to break the vicious circle of ill health, poverty and social exclusion in the developing world.  

Dr Simon Blankley in Uganda

In the past financial year, VSO:

  • worked with 141 local partners to improve health outcomes in 18 countries
  • developed health services that benefitted 867,000 people (60% women)
  • provided high-quality training to 23,800 health, HIV and AIDs practitioners

Areas of expertise

Healthy mothers and babies

We’re helping to strengthen maternal and neonatal healthcare by training midwives, nurses, paediatricians obstetricians, gynaecologists and other health professionals.

We’re also setting up best practice neonatal intensive care units in countries like Tanzania and Uganda. In Ethiopia our work has led to 40% more newborns surviving their first 28 days in hospitals where we worked.

The report ‘Best Practice in Newborn Health Care’ highlights the latest newborn health research and best practice care.

Young people’s sexual health

We want to see young people making empowered decisions regarding their bodies by sharing information about adolescent and youth sexual and reproductive health and rights. Teams of young volunteers have been crucial in spreading awareness and encouraging young people to seek care and advice in countries like Nepal, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

We’re also working with governments to ensure that action is being taken to end child marriage.

Tackling HIV and AIDS

We want to minimise the impact of the pandemic by increasing  demand from  communities for testing and accessible healthcare, whilst also ensuring that  there is good quality antiretroviral coverage  and fair treatment by health service providers for anyone living with the virus.

Throughout Southern Africa, we have begun to work to improve access to basic health and HIV and AIDS services for thousands of prisoners who are often denied their basic human right to health care.

How we work

We work with government and non-governmental partners, as well as through national and international advocacy to:

1. Strengthen frontline health professionals

VSO works with partners to improve the quality and quantity of pre-service training offered to new health professionals in countries facing acute talent shortages. Our international volunteers also provide in-service, continuing professional development training, mentoring and resources for health workers.

VSO also supports unpaid community-based health volunteers and home-based caregivers in many developing countries. We provide the information, training and support they need to enable them to deliver essential community-based health and HIV and AIDS services.

2. Improve the way health and HIV and AIDS services are managed and delivered

Our volunteers support maternal, newborn, child, sexual and reproductive health and HIV and AIDS service providers at primary healthcare level. This includes the implementation of recognised standard operating procedures to ensure minimum standards of health care are maintained.

3. Increase community engagement

Volunteer health groups are often in the best position to represent the voice of the communities they serve. They can highlight inadequacies in health or HIV and AIDS service delivery and hold those responsible for providing health services to account.

We build the capacity of these groups to become more involved in the planning, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of local health services, to make them more effective in representing the interests of poor communities at all levels of the health system.

4. Lobby for pro-poor health and HIV and AIDs policies

We want to see the introduction of policies that enable disadvantaged children, women and men to secure the health services they deserve and challenge practices which discriminate against them.

VSO staff, volunteers and partners are lobbying for better conditions for health workers, the shortage of whom in the workforce in many developing countries leads to thousands of unnecessary and unacceptable deaths.

We also call for positive action on HIV and AIDS that recognises the pandemic as a gender issue and the role of unpaid community caregivers in dealing with the impact of the disease. We also lobby for improved health care provision in prison settings and for an end to harmful traditional practices that put health at risk such as early or forced marriage.

For more information and case studies on how VSO contributes to improving health outcomes for people living in poverty, see our Health, HIV and AIDS capability statement (PDF).

Volunteer with VSO

If you're an experienced health professional, why not lend your skills and volunteer with VSO?