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Renewed optimism as Kenya marks World AIDS Day


An innovative concept is promising to transform the fight against HIV in the wake of a surge in new infections particularly among young people.

Local Innovations Scaled Through Enterprise Networks(LISTEN), that has been piloted in Homa bay and Kiambu Counties, has communities at the center of scaling up HIV response through the use of existing structures to improve outcomes in line with this year’s World AIDS Day’s theme; let communities lead.

According to Dr. Nicole Wamaitha, the Kiambu County head of programmes and partnerships, the concept has proved a success since its inception in 2018 with its advocates collaborating with key local stakeholders such as Boda Boda riders and fisher folk communities to reach those living with HIV.

The programme has seen improvements in prevention, care, and treatment services including mental health, gender-based violence, sexual and reproductive health information and economic empowerment opportunities across several sectors beyond health.

“The program utilizes youth-led community outreaches, health clubs, social media, local radio and television stations, and the use of real-life stories for and by adolescents and young people living with HIV and teen mothers on the prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV to support those in denial and experiencing stigma and discrimination.” Observes Wamaitha.

This amid disturbing statistics indicating that almost a third (30%) of all new infections in the county occur among adolescents and young people aged between 15-24 years.

The concept adopts six community of practice model comprising of male champions, boda boda riders, adolescent and young people, youth advisory champions for health, maisha youth, teen mums and innovations community of practice.

According to Wamaitha, the programme has helped improve outcomes in the region that has among others enhanced support for those living with the virus from their partners, facilitated engagement of mentor fathers to support prevention of mother to child transmission efforts, acceptance in schools, empowered young people on mental health and created linkages.

According to National Syndemic Disease Control Council CEO Dr Ruth Masha, it is imperative that the country invests in communities through awareness if the target to end HIV and AIDS as a public health threat by 2027 ahead of the 2030 global target is to be achieved.

According to Masha, mother to child transmission rates remain high in what she attributed to a growing threat of father-mother-child transmissions saying men have to become part of the awareness.

“We have noted that the number of children who are being infected even after the mother has delivered the child when she is negative, but then being infected during the feeding period, are quite high and we know the mother is usually at home during the first stage of the breastfeeding period.” Observed Masha.

Kenya is ranked 7th globally in the number of people living with HIV across the globe recording the sixth largest proportion of people who died from AIDS related deaths in the world last year.


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