Health, HIV and AIDS

VSO works in over 20 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. We support disadvantaged people to fulfil their right to enjoy physical, mental and social health and wellbeing. We also work to offer good-quality essential health and HIV and AIDS services.

Improving the quality of and access to health, HIV and AIDS services

Millions of people lack access to adequate basic health services. In many developing countries this is made worse by the HIV and AIDS pandemic.

We work with government and non-governmental partners to improve the management and delivery of health and HIV and AIDS services. Our international volunteers often support the delivery of maternal, sexual and reproductive, child, HIV and AIDS and health services at primary healthcare level. This includes frontline treatment, care and support.

VSO also works to strengthen community outreach work to promote good health and prevent illness and disease. We look at how to address social factors affecting health including gender inequality, the impact of climate change, the lack of access to clean water or sanitation and poor nutrition.

We support the management of national health volunteering, acknowledging the critical contribution made by unpaid, community-based health volunteers and home-based caregivers in many developing countries.

Inspiring individual health professionals

VSO strengthens the capabilities of health professionals while also contributing towards reducing the global health workforce shortage. How do we do this? We work with partners to improve the quality and quantity of pre-service training offered to new health professionals in countries where there is an acute shortage in the health workforce. Our international volunteers also provide in-service, on-the-job skills training (continuing professional development) to reflect the dedication to life-long learning required by healthcare workers. We work towards creating a skilled, supported and motivated health workforce that is focused on providing high quality patient care and is accountable to the community it serves.

Strengthening civil societies to give people choices and power over decisions that influence their health

VSO's work with community health volunteers and home-based caregivers aims to provide them with the information, training and skills they need to enable them to deliver essential community-based health and HIV and AIDS services.

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

We work with community health and HIV and AIDS volunteers and the civil society organisations that support them, to build their capacity to become more involved in the planning, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of local health services. This will help them to be more effective in representing the interests of poor communities at all levels of the health system.

Influencing governments to develop and implement pro-poor health and HIV and AIDS policies

When health and HIV and AIDS services providers plan and deliver their services we promote the voice of disadvantaged users. We want to improve legislative systems through the introduction of pro-poor health policies that enable disadvantaged children, women and men to secure their rights to these services and challenge practices which discriminate against them.

VSO country programmes working on our Valuing Health Workers initiative have identified the issues that affect health worker motivation and retention. Valuing Health Workers calls for improvements in the quality of health worker recruitment, training and management.

Reducing the burden of care on women and girls

Our AIDS Agenda international advocacy work highlights that inequality between women and men continues to fuel the HIV and AIDS pandemic. The work, which is led by our Regional AIDS Initiative of Southern Africa programme (RAISA), calls on governments to recognise that the burden of caring for people living with HIV and AIDS is predominantly being placed on women and girls. These carers are usually unpaid, untrained, unsupported and unrecognised. To improve the situation for women and girls, we have programmes that promote and encourage the men's role and involvement in community and home-based care. This forms part of our main goal of strengthening public health systems and policies to relieve some of the burden placed on voluntary caregivers.

Dr Dearlove and patient (Lesotho - Health)



VSO health, HIV and AIDS learning papers and guides

Joint publications on health, HIV and AIDS

Key external policy briefs and reports on health, HIV and AIDS

How to apply

Interested in volunteering with VSO? Find out what you need to apply and begin your application process now.