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What is the HIV/AIDS Twinning Center?

The HIV/AIDS Twinning Center develops and supports twinning partnerships and other volunteer-driven activities that strengthen human and organizational capacity to scale up and expand HIV/AIDS prevention, care, and treatment as part of the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR).

What are the Twinning Center’s primary activities?

  • Twinning partnerships: These are capacity-building partnerships between two or more similar institutions/organizations.
  • Volunteer Healthcare Corps (VHC): This is a cadre of healthcare and allied professionals willing to volunteer for a period of at least three months to work within a twinning partnership or other project that receives PEPFAR support.
These two activities are described in more detail below.

Why are these activities described as “volunteer-driven”?

Institutions and individuals volunteer to be involved in these activities. That is, individuals do not receive salaries or monetary compensation to participate. Institutions volunteer their faculty, staff, and other resources—they do not receive overhead or indirect costs for their participation.

Who funds the Twinning Center and its activities?

  • The Twinning Center receives money from the US Department of Health and Human Services, Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), HIV/AIDS Bureau, to develop, manage, and evaluate twinning and volunteer activities.
  • US government country teams in the focus countries allocate money to the HIV/AIDS Twinning Center through the Country Operational Plan process to cover the cost of the twinning partnerships’ programmatic activities and to cover the costs associated with placing volunteers in twinning partnerships.

How does the Twinning Center support the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief?

Working closely with HRSA, US government country teams, and focus country organizations, the Twinning Center’s activities support the President’s Emergency Plan by:  
  • Developing models of care for improved organization and delivery of services;
  • Strengthening educational institutions and training facilities;
  • Training and mentoring individual caregivers;
  • Scaling up and replicating successful care, treatment, and support programs; and
  • Transferring appropriate technology.

Who implements the Twinning Center’s activities?

The American International Health Alliance (AIHA) is the lead organization that oversees and coordinates all Twinning Center activities.

Twinning Partnerships

What does “twinning” mean?

The HIV/AIDS Twinning Center defines twinning as a voluntary, sustainable partnership between two or more similar organizations. Twinning partnerships are established to help develop capacity for HIV prevention, care, and treatment primarily through exchange visits and peer-to-peer collaborative relationships that focus on training, mentoring, and technology and knowledge transfer.

Are twinning partnerships only between a US partner and a focus country partner?

Typically, that is the case. However, at times it might be more effective to form partnerships between organizations in two focus countries (south-south partnerships). Partnerships between organizations in a focus country and a “third-party” country, as well as multilateral partnerships, can be considered.
Third-party countries are those that are not designated focus countries, but have cultural, historical, or linguistic ties to a focus country and can assist in implementing the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief.

What types of activities are well-suited to the twinning methodology?

  • Enhancing or introducing new systems of care (e.g., case management; laboratory, pharmacy, and medical records systems; mobile and outreach services; communication systems, etc.)
  • Training and mentoring of healthcare professionals
  • Developing curricula and other educational or training materials
  • Developing disease prevention and health promotion campaigns
  • Community mobilization initiatives
  • Scaling up or replicating successful care, treatment, and support programs  

What are the eligibility requirements for US and focus country partner organizations?

  • Recognized legal status in the state or country in which the organization resides
  • Ability to mobilize human and material resources to accomplish partnership activities and to meet the reporting requirements of the Twinning Center and of the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief
  • Skilled and motivated staff to implement proposed activities 

What types of institutions/organizations make good twinning partners?

  • Hospitals or clinics
  • Public health programs
  • Schools of medicine, nursing, allied health, pharmacy, public health, management, public administration, etc.
  • Community- and faith-based programs, including AIDS service organizations
  • HIV/AIDS education and training programs
  • Professional associations
  • Others, depending on host country needs  

How is the focus country partner identified?

The US government team in the focus country identifies an institution, organization, or association with capacity development needs that can be addressed through the twinning methodology.

How is the US or third-party partner identified?

If the US government team does not specify a preference for a partner, the HIV/AIDS Twinning Center selects an appropriate partner through an open solicitation process that clearly outlines the parameters and expectations of the partnership. Applications are submitted online on the Twinning Center Web site and evaluated through a peer review process. The most qualified partner is presented to the US government team, the US Health Resources and Services Administration, and the Office of the US Global AIDS Coordinator for approval.

How long does a twinning partnership last?

Three to five years is the optimal length of time for a partnership to be funded.

How do partners identify objectives and develop workplans?

After initial exchanges to determine needs and internal capacities, partners follow a Twinning Center template to develop a workplan that identifies objectives and timelines and the responsibilities of each partner. Monitoring and evaluation, a data collection system, and a sustainability plan are major components of the workplan.

How are twinning partnerships monitored and evaluated?

The workplan serves as the overall tool for monitoring progress, both by the partners themselves and by the Twinning Center. The workplan contains expected outputs and outcomes, together with ways to measure progress. Partnerships have quarterly data reporting requirements.

Who manages the funds for a twinning partnership?

The HIV/AIDS Twinning Center transfers the money it receives from the US government country team to the partnership through a subgrant mechanism. The funds are disbursed quarterly based on completion of quarterly progress reports.

What partnership costs can be covered by the twinning partnership subgrant?

  • All travel-related costs (airfare, lodging, meals and incidentals per diem, ground transportation, visas, travel insurance, excess baggage, etc.)
  • Translation and interpreting costs (usually incurred by the focus country partner)
  • Books or other educational materials
  • Limited clinical supplies or equipment
  • Information and communications equipment or supplies for HIV/AIDS Information Resource Centers, including computers, LCD projectors, printers, networking equipment, Internet connectivity, phone lines if needed, online subscriptions, and other information resources 
One partner organization is designated to oversee the partnership. That partner can receive administrative costs averaging 15-20 percent for administrative support and coordination services, phone, express mail, etc.

What kind of support does the Twinning Center provide to each partnership?

  • Orientation for all partners
  • Overall management, administration, and monitoring and evaluation
  • Technical assistance to support partnership goals and objectives
  • Partnership conferences and workshops
  • Placement of volunteers to support partnership activities, as requested   

Volunteer Healthcare Corps (VHC) 

What is the Volunteer Healthcare Corps?

The VHC is a network of individuals with expertise in healthcare, HIV/AIDS, or an allied profession who will work in established twinning partnerships or in other projects supported by the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief.

What do volunteers do?

Generally, volunteers provide clinical, educational, and capacity-building services. The actual work is determined by the needs of the host institution.

How long are volunteer assignments?

Typical assignments range from three months to two years, depending on the needs of the host institution.

How are volunteers selected?

Volunteers are selected through two channels:
  • The Twinning Center works with established voluntary healthcare organizations to solicit volunteers for specific assignments.
  • Interested individuals can register on the Twinning Center Web site to be considered for specific opportunities as they become available.

Can only doctors or nurses be volunteers?

No. Other healthcare professionals such as pharmacists, lab technicians, counselors, clinic managers, hospital administrators, public health administrators, health educators, and social workers may volunteer. In addition, other professionals who can support projects in HIV/AIDS prevention, care, and treatment may also be needed. These might include information technology experts, monitoring and evaluation specialists, and operational or systems managers.  

Who should volunteer?

Volunteers should be highly skilled professionals who demonstrate the dedication to assist individuals and communities that are affected by the HIV/AIDS pandemic. The prospective volunteer must be available for a long-term assignment (typically three months to two years) in what is likely to be a remote and resource-poor setting.

What are the minimum eligibility requirements for volunteers?

The basic requirements to be considered as a VHC volunteer include:
  • Be at least 21 years of age.
  • Have a health-related professional skill identified in a focus country’s HIV strategic plan.
  • Have professional experience of at least two years.
  • Be of sound mental and physical health.
  • Have a strong desire to improve healthcare in developing and transitional countries.
  • Meet professional licensure and certification requirements, if applicable to the assignment.
  • Be willing to abide by the standards of conduct for VHC volunteers.

What kind of support will the Twinning Center provide to volunteers?

  • Pre-assignment orientation and training.  
  • Communication support, including a Web site, listserv, and toll-free number.
  • Travel-related costs.
  • Housing that is basic, but clean and safe.
  • A modest allowance to cover living expenses.
  • Medical evacuation coverage.
  • Vaccinations and prophylactic treatments, as necessary.
  • Ongoing training and technical assistance to enable the volunteer to serve effectively. 

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