HIV Awareness Training Forum
The Kenya National Library Service organized a HIV awareness forum which took place on 21st April 2016 at its headquarters in Buruburu. The Human Immunodeficiency Virus, abbreviated as HIV is the virus that causes AIDS (Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome). HIV touches the lives of children and families in every part of our country with the western part being severely affected.The program was aimed at raising awareness of HIV among teenagers and young adults through informing them facts about HIV, promoting self responsibility, reduce stigma associated with HIV positive people and teaching them how to avoid HIV which to date still remains an incurable disease. Global statistics indicate that there were an estimate 2 million people who got infected with HIV in the year 2015. Even though it was a decline as compared to the previous year, more effort needs to put in place to deal with the epidemic. According to statistics in Kenya, the rate of infection among teenagers and young adults within the age group of 12 – 24 years has increased hence the need to raise awareness among people within this age bracket.
To successfully carry out the training forum, knls partnered with the National Aids Control Council (NACC) which is a state corporation established in the year 1999 as a clear demonstration by the government to deal with the HIV and AIDS pandemic. As established in their mandate, they have the capacity to deliver training programs of such kind and also support HIV awareness prevention activities. The new training program serves to cement previous partnership arrangements where they have provided print publications about HIV which are available within knls libraries and the distribution of condoms within the entire knls library network.
The participants were divided into two groups; 10 – 19 years and 20 – 24 years. Awareness at the two levels is different and the mode of delivery of the training is different and the depth of the talk hence the need to segregate them. Girls and young women are especially inherently vulnerable to HIV infections. The youth need to learn how to avoid, reject or defend themselves against sexual harassment, violence, alcohol and drug abuse as well as peer pressure. Participants were in agreement that peer influence has great impact on them and can lead them to acting without engaging their individual thought process.
The teenagers and young adults were advised to participate actively in making and implementing decisions on HIV prevention, care and support that affect them, their families and their communities. Stigmatization and discrimination were highly discouraged since its against the constitution and the law. HIV is preventable and treatable but incurable. HIV is transmitted through (1) unprotected sex with an HIV-infected person; (2) an HIV-infected woman to her baby during pregnancy, childbirth or breastfeeding; and (3) blood from HIV-contaminated syringes, needles or other sharp instruments and from transfusion with HIV-contaminated blood. HIV is not transmitted through casual contact or by other means.
It is essential for Kenyan citizens to raise awareness about HIV in order to prevent new infections. The government declared HIV as a national disaster in the year 1999 after it shot to be the leading killer among Kenyan Citizens. The government established mechanisms to tackle the illness which among them included; provision of free medication, investment in prevention of the spread of the disease, eradication of the stigma associated with the disease and also research.
The HIV and AIDS awareness is more targeted towards the high population of sexually active people within the society since the highest percentage of infections occur through sexual intercourse as opposed to other potential transmission methods. Research has shown that where prevention campaigns have been established, the HIV infections have gone down. The aim of the campaigns is to reduce the infection rate.
The HIV awareness program seeks to ensure that the library users understand how hia and iads spread and how everyone can protect him/herself. It also seeks to encourage change of sexual behaviour and the need to practice safe sex at all times. In addition, the program promotes openness in breaking down the stigma associated with hiv and aids, as well as make everyone aware of the plight of people living with hiv, the problems they face within the society and the need to treat them with dignity. Lastly, the program also sought to ensure that people understand their rights and treatment options once they have been diagnosed, and the positive lifestyle to adopt in order to avoid re-infection and spreading of the illness to other people.
Teenagers were sensitized on the dangers of unprotected sex, the need for openness and good communication among partners and the importance of abstinence. It was made clear to the that the responsibility of protecting themselves from HIV and AIDs is their personal key responsibility which they should not delegate to their partners. A lot of emphasis was laid on the importance for teenagers and young adults to get tested in order to know their status as frequent as their sexual activity. There are many Voluntary Counselling and Testing (VCT) centres spread in different regions including hospitals where testing is provided at no cost.
The teenagers and young adults were educated on the medication alternatives available for expectant HIV Positive mothers in order to prevent mother to child hiv transmission. They were advised on the need to attend postnatal clinic regularly during pregnancy in order to start medication early as required.
Unprotected sex still remains the most common way that people get HIV and AIDS. The virus lives in the body fluids thus easily transmitted through intercourse. Proper use of protection e.g. condoms would significantly help in reducing the possibility of exchange of the body fluids. Participants were also informed that you cannot get AIDS from kissing someone on the lips, hugging, sharing food and drink or using the same bath or toilet as someone who is HIV positive. Deep kissing or French kissing can pass on HIV if an infected person who has sores in your mouth is involved. However, if there are no open wounds, scientist says that one has to receive at least 5 litres of saliva to be at risk of contracting the virus.
The sessions were interactive and participatory where participants shared what they knew about the disease, their real live experiences and the way forward in preventing the spread of the disease. The session ended with the Deputy Director Technical Services Mr David Muswii thanking all the partners and participants for being involved in the activity. He also encouraged the teenagers and young adults to change their behaviour in order to ensure that everyone is safe from the incurable illness. Also emphasized was the individual responsibility of taking control of own life destiny by making appropriate choices and decisions.
Story by Timothy Mahea
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