22 Dec 2013

The World Aids Day and the Youth in Kenya

Catherine Wanjiru Nyambura is a young feminist leader passionate about Youth Sexual Reproductive Health, Human Rights and Development. She currently works as the project coordinator, Dandelion Kenya. Dandelion Kenya is a grassroots organization based in Nakuru that works to economically empower women and the youth in the Rift Valley through capacity building and training on comprehensive sexual education. Catherine was involved in marking the World Aids Day 2013 because of her passion to work towards reducing the spread of HIV/AIDS. Dandelion Kenya was involved in planning for the day as a member of the planning committee for the second time this year together with other stake holders.

The World Aids Day in Nakuru was marked at Nyayo Gardens at the county level with county officials such as the County Officer of Health gracing the occasion, CASCO office and members of the county assembly. The county event was spearheaded by the NACC South Rift valley. Other organizations also attended including Population Service International, KANCO, RED CROSS, Oserian Flowers and other local Community Based Organizations, youth groups and entertainment groups.

Currently 1.6million are living with HIV/AIDS in Kenya, young girls aged 15-24years constitute of 67% of people living with HIV in sub Saharan Africa which gives HIV a feminine face. 50% of all new infections are amongst those in marriages. In Kenya women are affected by twice as high prevalence compared to their male counterparts with sexual contacts being one of the reasons for this statistic. Other notable features are the prevalence rates amongst sex workers, the  LGBTI Community and other communities and groups who fall amongst the most at risk populations (MARPs).

Catherine personally rates Kenya highly in terms of getting to Zero stigma, it is crucial to note that people living with HIV are not as stigmatized as they were before.  According to Catherine currently the Kenyan society has developed a certain tolerance to people living with HIV/AIDS because of the massive sensitizing and trainings that have been conducted by the organizations working in the field with the community. She believes that with more effort it is possible to move the infection rate in Kenya to Zero.

However it is not a done deal yet since the marginalized communities in the Kenyan society like the LGBTI and Commercial Sex Workers are still facing discrimination in terms of access to treatment and outreach activities.  This, Catherine feels, it is a thing that should be addressed with the urgency that it deserves since the is no way the Kenyan society will get to Zero if some members are still stigmatized. It should be an all inclusive effort. “We will get to zero infections if we continue with the downward trend, we are far from zero, but I believe if we pull up our efforts together we will for sure get to zero,” asserts Catherine.

What should be done to make sure that the Kenyan society and Africa in general moves to Zero in new infections, in HIV/AIDS related maternal deaths and in stigmatizing the infected and affected? Catherine thinks that organizations, individuals and corporations working in the area of HIV/AIDS should focus on Behavior change strategies. They should also package the message and use channels that the youth identify with to pass the message to the youth. HIV/AIDS infections and prevalence in the Kenyan society now is relative and needs to be treated as such in context rather than the often used blanket approaches.

In Nakuru the youth are greatly involved in HIV/AIDS programs in terms of Peer education initiatives, drama and performance arts and initiatives to support youth living with HIV/AIDS. These efforts are inclusive involving adolescents and teenagers. Dandelion Kenya for example seeks to provide information and demystify myths that surround sexuality which is at the core of HIV/AIDS. It does this by providing information through comprehensive sexuality education which currently serves more than 600 youths in secondary schools and colleges, by the provision of safe spaces and platforms to discuss issues surrounding HIV/AIDS, and by using social media to engage the youth in discussions surrounding HIV/AIDS and Sexuality.

Notable activities that took place at the World Aids Day are the colorful procession amongst other entertaining activities that were used to catch the attention of the people. All the organizations mobilized their resources to tag the grounds with various messages on leadership, stigma elimination and other messages on HIV/AIDS. “It was quite encouraging to see people of all walks of life gathering their resources, social, human, financial and physical capital to make the day a success.”

The Day was marked with a colorful procession on the main street, Kenyatta Avenue, in Nakuru guided by a band, scouts and other organizations. There were Counseling and Testing Sessions, entertainment by various college groups, exhibitions of goods made by People Living with HIV/AIDS. Amongst those performing were People Living with Disabilities, People Living with HIV/AIDS and the police who did an activity dubbed Condolympics which shows the importance of using condoms to prevent HIV/AIDS infections.

Currently our website is being renovated  link to Dandelion Kenya is www.facebook.com/Dandelion Kenya

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