Kenyan FBOs Take On HIV/AIDS
When organizations are determined to join hands and work across lines of cultural and religious beliefs, the results are astounding.
On November 3, 2016, five Kenyan faith-based organizations (FBOs) joined to showcase their contributions in providing HIV services to the most vulnerable of Kenya. With support from the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), the FBOs demonstrated the successes achieved through a 5-year cooperative agreement with CDC (2011-2016).
The event integrated powerful testimonies from people whose lives were directly impacted by the services offered by the FBOs. Meresa, who is 39 years old, was patient number 1 at one of the CDC service delivery sites in Western Kenya over 12 years ago. Prior to obtaining services, Meresa described her health condition as poor and sickly. She further highlighted her challenges with stigma and her journey to now becoming a peer educator in her community and the mother of three HIV negative children thanks to the interventions available to prevent mother-to-child transmission of HIV.
Another compelling story came from 13-year old Elijah, who overcame stigma and discrimination upon sharing his HIV positive status with his friends. Elijah boldly stood before the 300 in attendance and shared his struggles and perseverance. Not only that, Elijah shared a message of hope that children living with HIV in Kenya can live happy and healthy lives thanks to the support of programs offered by the FBOs.
The Christian Health Association of Kenya (CHAK), Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops (KCCB), Coptic Mission Hospital, Eastern Deanery Aids Relief Program (EDARP) and Bomu Medical Center are networks of Protestant, Catholic, Orthodox and Muslim-affiliated health facilities native to Kenya and provide preventive, promotive and curative health care services. Over the last five years these five FBOs contributed towards the HIV response in Kenya through comprehensive HIV prevention, care and treatment services to over 118 health facilities in 55% of the country’s 47 counties.
Historically, FBOs have provided a substantial proportion of health care services to populations that live in difficult places where others do not necessarily want to work or stay. CDC has long recognized that FBOs serve as a critical partner in addressing Sub-Saharan Africa’s toughest health problems at their source, directly working with vulnerable families and communities in local hospitals, clinics, and community networks.
It is remarkable what the FBOs were able to achieve over the last 5 years including:
- Over 2.7 million counselled and tested and are aware of their HIV status with four-fold increase in HIV testing
- Over 90%of those identified as positive linked to HIV care and initiated on treatment
- Over 240,000 pregnant women tested and are aware of their HIV status
- Virtual elimination of mother-to-child transmission with <5% transmission rates as compared to 8% nationally
- Over 200,000 patients cumulatively reached and started on antiretroviral treatment
Key guests at the event included the Reverend Dr. Paul Kariuki, Chairman of the Catholic Health Commission of Kenya, who spoke on behalf of all faiths represented at the forum as well as the Deputy Chief of Mission, Paul Sutphin who expressed the U.S. government’s renewed commitment to stand alongside the Kenyan people with the goal of an AIDS-free generation. Dr. Kevin De Cock, CDC Kenya Country Director, congratulated the five FBOs and went on to comment that “faith can be a uniquely powerful force for good” and that FBOs are best positioned to teach us how to engage the most hard to reach groups, including commercial sex workers or men who have sex with men.
This event proved to be exemplary not only because of how the support of PEPFAR, CDC and its partners are changing lives, but also on how they are reinforcing partnerships—by bringing together different thoughts, approaches, and even faiths to join in the shared vision and collaborative efforts towards achieving an AIDS-free generation.
Written by: Alberta Mirambeau and Justin Williams
Photos by: Justin Williams