Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric Aids Foundation (EGPAF) and Homa Bay County government have come up with a programme which will ensure that youth and especially adolescence are sensitised on HIV and AIDs in the county.
It will ensure that the adolescents and the youths are enabled to know their HIV status and even seek treatment.
According to EGPAF county director Eliud Mwangi youth who are vulnerable the county have been left out in the fight against HIV and AIDs and most of them do not know their health status.
EGPAF Country Director Eliud Mwangi waves to the crowd.He said they have launched a program meant to curb HIV infections among the adolescents in Homa Bay.Pix Habil Onyango
“We have specifically set aside some funds to run the programme for the youth who have not been actively involved in the fight against HIV/AIDS in Homa Bay, which has the highest HIV prevalence rate in the country.
The latest report by National Aids Control Council shows that Homa Bay has the highest HIV prevalence rate in Kenya at 25.7 per cent against the country’s 6.04 percent.
According to the County Aids and STI Control (CASCO) Willis Omwonyo the data does not include the youths and the adolescence in the Country.
He however said they are in the process of creating data base on HIV programme for youths and especially the adolescents to know the actual figure of the teenagers who are infected.
“If we want to tackle HIV infections and sexual reproduction in Homa Bay, we must ensure that the adolescents are involved,” said Omwonyo. He added, “It is a fact that one out of four people in Homa Bay is living with HIV, the question is what are we doing about it.”
Speaking during the inaugural Homa Bay Adolescents Health Symposium at Homa Bay High School, Mwangi said a number of youth have always avoided testing due to stigmatisation and discrimination.
“The programme will involve putting up of a modern youth friendly health facilities. This will ensure they can easily access medical services and employ a number of health workers to manage the facility,” said the director.
Mwangi added, “We want to ensure that in the future there will be no mother to child HIV transmission and no child or adolescent dies due to HIV related complications.”
According to the county executive committee member in charge of Education and ICT Naphatally Mattah, 60 per cent of school going youths have not been tested and do not know their status.
FROM LEFT.Rosalia Awiti,Deputy Governor Hammilton Orata and Health Services CEC Lawrence Oteng during the Symposium.Pix Habil Onyango
He said the school programme should be enhanced to include even testing and treatment to the teenagers in various learning institutions.
He added, “I want to challenge our health personnel to be sensitive to the youths, some are so innocent and only contracted the virus from their parents,”
However the County chief of staff Isaac Abuya has a different view on the approach to curb the infections and spread of HIV among the adolescents.
Abuya says in order to tackle the spread of HIV among teenagers, child marriage in Homa Bay must first be dealt with.
He said 36 per cent of girls in the county as young as 17 years old get married to men who are older than them and most of them suffer maternal deaths.
The chief of staff says some even get married to some of the widowers whose spouses succumbed to HIV related infections.
The launch was also attended by the Homa Bay deputy governor Hamilton Orata, the Homa Bay firs lady, Rosila Awiti and Health Services CEC Lawrence Oteng’
Oteng said Homa Bay has declared HIV a disaster and there is need to reverse the high prevalence rate from the current 25.7 per cent to even 10 per cent in the next five years.
Oteng added that there is also need for the pregnant mothers to be encouraged to give birth in hospitals to prevent mother to child virus transmission.
Homa Bay Deputy Governor Hammilton Orata during the Symposium.He said the County has come up with a strategic plan to manage HIVand AIDS infections in Homa Bay.Pix Habil Onyango.
“Most of the HIV infections among the teenagers come as a result of mother to child transmissions while giving birth, pregnant mothers need to be told to ensure that they give birth in health facilities,” said the CEC.
Mercy Awino,18, is one of the victims who acquired the virus from her mother who died while she was only three years.
She shared with the audience on how challenging life has been ever since she was diagnosed with the virus.
“When I started developing some complications, my grandmother who I still live with took me to hospital and after various tests it was found that I am HIV positive,” said Awino.
At first it was hard to accept the condition since I never knew where I got the virus from. I was put on ARVs but kept on defaulting but after counselling, I actually accepted my condition..
Awino who is set to sit her Kenya National Examination Council examinations next year says she has formed a youth support group which enrolls adolescents who have tested HIV positive.
She says at the moment the group has 25 members who engage in counselling on how to live with the condition.
Some of the adolescents who attendede the symposium during group discussions.The program will focus on creating awareness and build youth friendly health facilities for the adolescence in Homa Bay.Pix Habil Onyango.
“I know it is hard for the adolescents to visit VCTs due to stigma, I just want to urge youths especially the adolescents to take the bold step and know their status, being HIV positive is not the end of life, my friends in our support group, we are determined and will succeed just like others,” she advises.
“I also want to tell young boys and girls not to participate in early and unprotected sex,” added Awino.
Orata promised that the county government will support Awino to pursue her further education. The DG further assured the residents that the county government is committed in fight against further infections and especially among the adolescents.
He revealed that they have already drafted a strategic plan which will help in the fight against HIV epidemic in the county.
Orata added that there plans to table a bill in the county assembly which will deal with child marriages and other communicable diseases related to HIV/Aids in the county.
Fourteen-year-old Moses Onyango says most of his school mates always ask why he is always going to hospital each and every Sunday. Onyango, who currently lives with his stepmother after his parents died around the year 2000, says other family members are very supportive and have always givenhim hope.
David Ouma, a class four pupil at a local School within Ndhiwa Sub County says sometimes he finds it difficult to interact with other pupils due to discrimination.
Ouma who stays with her grandmother says some of her friends calls him “a boy with a disease that kills people,”
Mrs Awiti however stressed that there is an urgent need to support the adolescents since they are more vulnerable.
She told the teenagers who attended the event to ensure that they show love to their colleagues who might have contracted the virus saying it might have not been their mistakes.
“Always show love and support to your colleagues some might have fallen on the trap following a mistake by their parents,” she said.
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