An all-out war against the HIV/AIDS malady

EVANS KANINI By EVANS KANINI, 10th Jun 2014 | Follow this author | RSS Feed | Short URL http://nut.bz/14-o3z2a/
Posted in Wikinut>Writing>Society & Issues

Focus International leaves nothing to chance in tough battle against the dreaded epidemic that has been chewing victims indiscriminately and wiping out Kenyan populations ruthlessly. Parable of the boiled frog used to brilliantly illustrate the dangers of the disease

Harbinger

The atmosphere is cool, relaxed. Heavy clouds, a harbinger of heavy rains gather in the skies.

Then the rain comes suddenly and forcefully, beating a monotonous tattoo on the roofs.

Thunder crushes, cracks and crushes again. Then the rains gradually subside and surprisingly peter out into a drizzle, warm and soft and quite welcoming.

A sharp, brilliant rainbow arches, against the backdrop of the bright evening, as a cold gust of wind whistles silently, at times noisily, against hedges of grass outside the hotel.

Venue: Wagon Wheel hotel, Eldoret town, Rift Valley Kenya.

Time: 4pm

Event: Interview

Blue wisps of smoke gush out sluggishly from the hotels chimney.

I peer out through the thick hessian curtains of the window next to me, expectantly.

I am at the hotel, located in the heart of Eldoret town, impatiently waiting to interview Peter Kimani, the executive director of Focus International Club, an Eldoret-based NGO that has been embarking on a spirited, all-out war against HIV/Aids in Kenya.

Events have overtaken time.

Then Kimani and his group emerge from the back door and we shake hands, as he and his group of officials from Focus International sit on the other side of the table, facing me.

Platform

Focus international has embarked on a program to produce a platform for the youth to address Aids-related issues.

Kimani has been spearheading over 300 members of the organization in battling the Aids pandemic in all areas of Eldoret town- the home town of retired Kenyan president Daniel Arap Moi, who ruled the country for a record 24 years.

Focus International has been organizing workshops, poetry, dances and other drama in the fight against the Aids scourge.

The drama has been a real enactment of the hazards posed by the deadly epidemic, and a representative fraction of what is taking place in Kenya.

The disease has been decimating hundreds of people in Eldoret town and Kenya in general of late, confining many others in local hospital beds, besides orphaning many children.

Orphans

And touched and clearly moved by the plight of Aids orphans in Eldoret and the shocking local Aids statistics in the area, Kimani and his group have been causing a stir in the town, moving up and down all over, in schools, churches and other institutions, educating local residents on the dangers of the disease and how to steer clear off it.

He and his group have been pulling crowds who have found an opportunity to lament over the hundreds of local people, being consigned in many Eldoret graves.

It has been a sorry state of affairs of late........ a big concern for the likes of Kimani.

Confident, composed, articulate and assertive, Kimani has been vigorously embroiled in an anti-Aids campaign in Eldoret with the message that to successfully defeat the dangerous pandemic, the youth must be wholly and effectively involved.

They must be empowered both economically and socially.

Scourge

During the interview, Kimani states that the focus of his organization, Focus International Club, is to help control escalation of the scourge among the youth and adult population, as well as participating in Aids awareness and poverty eradication at community level.

The club, he stressed, was focusing on providing holistic support and opportunities for the youth, using a youth-oriented strategy that attempts to meet the needs young people themselves identify.

"As part of my organizations strategy, our program aims to have the youth focused on matters of sex. The organization sees a focused member as one who abstains from sex, and to those who are married, remain faithful to their relationship", Kimani tells this writer, raising his hands in a gesticulative gesture, eyes narrowed into sharp, penetrating slits.

A pregnant silence follows, then he adds:

"Inspired by the principle that individuals and organizations must work together to produce sustainable innovations, and to tackle HIV/AIDS and other livelihood crisis in poor urban and rural communities, my organization is working with Kenyans living abroad particularly in California, New York, and New Jersey where they have also formed their focus clubs".

They have pledged to be mentors to both primary and High school students, and to tap any resources available to help them in their school work, according to Kimani.

Address

How can concerned individuals and groups better address the issue of HIV/AIDS and youth from an angle that takes on the pandemic in the 21st century?

The boiled frog parable

"By propagating behavioral changes!" Kimani hastens to remark, and quotes the parable of the boiled frog to illustrate the repercussions of ignoring or being apathetic to calls for changes.

Kimani’s quotation of the boiled frog parable sounds as intriguing as a cryptic clue of a crossword puzzle:

"If you place a frog in a pot of boiling water, it will immediately try to scramble out. But if you place the frog in room temperature water and don’t scare it, it will stay put. Now, if the pot sits on a heat source, and if you gradually turn up the temperature, something very interesting happens".

Kimani continues:

"As the temperature rises from 70 to 80 degrees F.,the frog will do nothing; in fact, gradually it will show every sign of enjoying itself".

He adds:

"As the temperature gradually increases, the frog will become groggier and groggier, until it is unable to climb out of the pot. Even with nothing restraining it, it will just sit there and boil. Why? Because the frog’s internal apparatus for sensing threats to survival, is geared to sudden changes in its environment and not to slow, gradual changes".

Outlining the state of his Focus International Club, Kimani indicates that the organization mission statement is: to educate and work with the youth in Kenya to help them better understand Sexual Health with particular emphasis on HIV/AIDS, to be committed in being a stand in the fight against the disease and to work out modalities in the reduction of it’s incidence.

Kimani further told the press that his organization was focusing on the youth since they were particularly vulnerable to HIV infection, and continued being seriously affected by the epidemic.

"Young people yield to pressure to exchange money or goods for sex, and are also sexually preferred by the older generation. Young women are more than twice likely to be infected than men of the same age group", argues he, while cocking his nose surreptitiously.

He contends that when young people migrate to find work they increase their chances of risky sexual behavior and due to poverty, they are likely to leave sexually transmitted diseases untreated. This increases their chances of contracting the HIV/AIDS virus.

"And besides, the youth do not have access to information, and also lack good role models and appropriate recreational facilities, contributing to the lack of knowledge to facilitate the pandemics risk reduction", he charges.

Awareness

His organization, Kimani stresses, aims to integrate AIDS awareness into the youth livelihoods.

Other measures include strengthening the capabilities of small multi-level marketing firms (direct sales firms), so that they are able to co-ordinate their activities better and employ more youths.

Among the objectives of Focus International, Kimani points out, is to identify youths training needs, develop appropriate curriculum, plan the training program and identify and assist in setting up, re-organization or improvement of vocational training institutions with a view to enabling them engage in gainful entrepreneurial activities.

Other objectives of Kimani’s organization is to promote activities supporting behavior change and participation through information dissemination, using advocacy, social mobilization and program communication in order to achieve social development benefiting the youth.

It also seeks to support identification, research and analysis of social-cultural practices that may inhibit or support the fulfillment of the fight against AIDS, and assist the design of strategies to address inhibiting practices.

The organization also strives to support the government in effective implementation of existing policies to tackle HIV/AIDS issues among the youth.

It targets Kenyan youth aged 14-35 years for sensitization on the dangers of the scourge, and particularly in view of the fact that poverty reduction is an important competent in the combat against the disease.

Committee

Kimani’s organization also seeks to identify an advisory committee consisting of teachers, students and community leaders in Eldoret to fight HIV/AIDS, to identify schools that would be used as pilot projects, develop a strategy to identify the themes to be addressed in the pilot project and have schools discuss issues affecting them through discussion, poetry and friendly competition.

The organization wants the youth to become healthy, productive and well-adjusted members of the society.

What prompted Kimani to embark on a spirited, all-out war against HIV/AIDS?

A moment of silence followed, then he asserted:

"I lost three cousins and several friends based in Eldoret and Mombasa, Kenya's Coastal town and from then on, it dawned on me that the youth were not taking precautions".

Then clearing his throat, and massaging his right temple after another infinitesimal pause, he added:

"After I lost my cousins and several friends, I decided that I should be in the forefront in the battle against the scourge".

Birth date

Kimani was born in Eldoret town at Ya Mumbi Estate in 1970.

He went to school in Musingu High School, Western Kenya, where he completed his "A" level education in 1989.

Later, he joined Nairobi's Strathmore College where he completed his CPA1 and CPA2 Accounts course in 1994.

Between 1992 and 1993, Kimani worked as a manager of Rift Valley outlets and was the organizations manager, at only 22.

During the 70th anniversary of Kenya Breweries in 1993, he received an award as the youngest and best serving manager in the North Rift region of Kenya.

Former Kenyan Cabinet minister Marsden Madoka, then manager of Kenya Breweries, gave Kimani an award as he told him: "you are the youngest and best serving manager in the North Rift region this year (1993). I would like to meet you when you are forty".

Subsequently, Kimani quit Rift Valley Outlets, had short stints with some Nairobi-based organizations, before eventually deciding to set up the Focus International organization.

He told this writer that his group was involved in partnering/networking with the World Aids body based in Connecticut, USA, with the hope of creating a global youth movement to combat the Aids pandemic and promote Aids education in communities in Eldoret town and, to a larger extent, Kenya.

Volunteers

Kimani asserted that focus International has been sending a team of volunteers from Eldoret to abroad for conferences on Global Strategies for the prevention of HIV/AIDS transmission.

His organization also plans to have patrons focus clubs orientation seminars for all High Schools in Eldoret and Uasin Gishu district at large, with the aim of launching various focus clubs under the High Schools Youth empowerment programs.

"My view is that Aids should not be fought by professionals alone. It should be a shared vision, and the goal should be to break contact with the deadly virus", he maintains.

"The fight against HIV/Aids should be people-driven since it does not spare professionals either!" Kimani emphasizes.

Darkness slowly encroaches the evening and the interview over, we all rise up to part at the hotel.

A helicopter flies overhead distracting everybody's attention but the rumbling soon fizzles out.

Janet Jackson

Somewhere in the Wagon Wheel hotel, a music system roars into life and belts out,"That’s The Way Love Goes", a heart–rending number by American musician Janet Jackson.

Prolonged laughter breaks out as Kimani remarks with finality:"but certainly, Love should not drive us into the Aids Pandemic".

Efforts

Despite consistent efforts by leaders across the political and religious divide in Kenya to develop strategies geared towards curtailing the rate of HIV/AIDS in the region and its related stigma, the disease prevalence is still high in this East African country.

Investigations reveal that majority of the people suffer from bouts of depression following stigmatization from the society after contracting the disease.

However, despite the stereotype, few are beginning to break the odd in the community and are now educating people on various HIV/AIDS prevention ways at no cost.

Government strategies of fighting HIV/AIDS

The government of Kenya has pledged to empower nurses to boost HIV care during a recent major breakfast meeting at a Nairobi hotel aimed at charting the way forward over the issue.

The meeting was officially opened by Health Cabinet Secretary James Macharia who made the pledge on behalf of the government.

The high ranking government official stressed that building nurses capacity was crucial in providing comprehensive quality HIV care to patients in this East African country, owing to the high national HIV prevalence rate, standing currently at 5.6 percent, as well as decentralization of HIV care and treatment to primary health care facilities around the country.

Mr Macharia asserted that following the shortage of medical doctors in the country, the National Aids and STI Control Program (NASCOP), released guidelines supporting task-shifting of HIV care and treatment to nurses where the shortage existed.

He indicated that the government would maintain its partnership with ICAP to equip nurses with the appropriate skills to deliver quality nursing services and other essential services to improve HIV care and treatment in the country.

Hotel

The International Center for Aids Care and Treatment Program (ICAP), and the Ministry of Health dissemination breakfast meeting took place at the Crown Plaza hotel.

Others present were the ICAP Country Director Dr Mark Hawken, a senior ICAP official Jennhifer Dohrin, the Chief Nursing officer Chris Rakuom, senior ministry of health officials, county health directors and development partners.

Gathering

Addressing the gathering, Macharia showered ICAP with praises for its longstanding partnership with the Health ministry.

He noted with appreciation that his ministry had worked in cahoots with ICAP, in strengthening health systems in line with the world Health’s organizations six pillars since 2008.

The Cabinet Secretary enumerated the six pillars as Service delivery, Health workforce, Information, Medical products, Finance and leadership and governance.

The partnership, Macharia further noted, had been extended to not only strengthen the facilities but also the health workforce through provision of capacity building to nurses in Kenya’s Eastern and Nyanza regions.

ICAP, the Cabinet Secretary revealed, had hired quite a number of nurses to augment government’s efforts of increasing nurses in the public sector.

A number of facilities in the two regions of Eastern and Nyanza had also been expanded following this partnership, Macharia further noted.

Mr Macharia told the meeting that the government would maintain its partnership with ICAP to encourage nurses to be involved in conducting research to inform policy both at the National and county levels, build the capacity of already trained and qualified nurses through mentorship and supportive supervision and develop an in-service training curriculum to include an expanded role for nurses in HIV prevention, care and treatment.

Concert

ICAP, while acting in concert with the Ministry of health conducted a general assessment in the Kenyan counties of Machakos, Kitui and Makueni to identify training and competency gaps that needed addressing in health facilities in this East African country.

Tough journey against HIV/AIDS

Societies entrust schools with the enormous responsibility for preparing children for their journey throughout the world.

In the modern world, that means preparing them to navigate their way in a world with HIV- they could be the first HIV-free generation.

As such, each year that children leave school without the knowledge, attitudes and behavior that could protect them from HIV, is a huge missed opportunity.

In the midst of the despair and havoc that HIV causes, education stands out as a beacon of hope.

Simply staying longer in school means that young people are better placed to stay away from HIV.

Among the latest trends observed in Africa is the increasing feminisation of the pandemic.

Almost three-quarters of young people living with HIV in Africa are female and overall, almost 61 per cent of adults living with HIV in 2007 were women.

Whether this is true or not is a matter of debate in health forums.

Doctors

Several doctors interviewed agreed that education could make a real difference in reducing HIV-AIDS cases.

Some critics are of the view that more educated people are more vulnerable to HIV infection since education brings mobility and money, both of which mean more sexual opportunities and greater risks.

According to the Global HIV Prevention Working Group, 2007, there are effective means to prevent every mode of transmission; political commitment on HIV has never been stronger; and financing for HIV programs in low-and middle-income countries increased six-fold between 2001 and 2006.

However, while attention to the epidemic, particularly for treatment access, has increased in recent years, efforts to reduce HIV incidence are faltering.

Estimation

By 2015, it is estimated that there will be 60 million more new HIV infections around the world than in 2007.

Sixty million more infections of a communicable disease which we know how to prevent.

Most people get HIV through unprotected sexual intercourse, sharing un-sterialised injection equipment (mostly by injecting drug users), or during child birth.

According to medical research, each of these main forms of transmission can be prevented in different ways: sexual transmission is greatly reduced by using a condom or changing sexual behavior in order to reduce risk; sterilized needles will prevent drug users or medical patients from being infected, and transmission during child birth is greatly reduced if a mother takes antiretroviral therapy.

As the world finally wakes up to the global crisis in HIV and AIDS, we should be winning in HIV prevention.

Mankind

We should be the victors in this epic battle against the pandemic. We should be the warriors against the deadly scourge, lest it continues rearing its ugly head and decimating mankind.



Tags

Aids, Aids And Human Body, Aids Medicine, Aids Statistics, Aids Studies, Aids Victims

Meet the author

author avatar EVANS KANINI
Kenyan journalist writing on issues of education, health, environment, agriculture, water, democracy, human rights and governance.

Share this page

moderator Steve Kinsman moderated this page.
If you have any complaints about this content, please let us know

Comments

author avatar Fern Mc Costigan
10th Jun 2014 (#)

The education campaigns have their share as well new research that has done a positive breakthrough against this evil killer

Reply to this comment

author avatar EVANS KANINI
12th Jun 2014 (#)

Sure, Fern.

Reply to this comment

Add a comment
Username
Can't login?
Password