’Yes, I said it. I’m HIV positive. I was born with it I had no choice. You, my friends have a choice, Chagua PrEP’’ encouraged a peer educator from Mount Kenya University during a roadshow to create awareness and demand on PrEP in Kiambu County. Youth contribute to a third of new HIV infections in Kenya. Sexual reproductive health education remains a taboo in most communities resulting to early teenage pregnancies, increase in sexual transmitted infections and HIV.
PrEP is a form of HIV prevention that uses medication to protect HIV-negative people from acquiring HIV. Research shows that PrEP is highly effective in preventing HIV infection, as long as the drugs are taken regularly and consistently. However, PrEP does not prevent other sexually transmitted infections or pregnancy. Many youths lack proper knowledge on PrEP due to myths resulting in negative perceptions towards medication and ignorance.
To address this, LVCT Health through OPTIONS consortium planned for the roadshow within Kiambu County, which has the highest population of youth in Kenya. The road show formed part of the many activities of our PrEP demand creation work in Kiambu.
‘Our DREAMS programme in Kiambu informed the need to create demand for PrEP in the County (low uptake of PrEP services especially among AGYW). The need to include a roadshow as an activity was deemed necessary for reaching the wider community who would not have been reached by the other campaign activities that majorly focus on AGYW’ Said Maryline LVCT Health senior research officer.
Kiambu County health department and learning institutions around Kiambu were involved in mapping and selecting youth volunteers to be HIV prevention ambassadors, they were offered training and given key information that they would use to reach their peers. One of their roles was to help in creating demand for PrEP.
At the road show, the HIV prevention ambassadors were introduced to the crowds within their respective areas of operation. The well branded truck with HIV prevention messages moved around the county playing music and pulling crowds with activities like dances, condom demonstrations and quizzes on PrEP. Videos, highlighting the role of youth, parents and community influencers on PrEP promotion were projected on screens mounted on the truck. The crowds were then given an opportunity to interact with the service providers who were on board and win gift hampers with HIV prevention materials for their participation.
By evening, HIV prevention ambassador’s champions had achieved some key outcomes, they managed to link and refer some of their peers to health facilities for PrEP, distributed over 10,000 condoms and HIV self-test kits. Members of the public were encouraged to share the PrEP information with their friend and families and asked to call the LVCT Health toll free 1190 for more information and tele-counselling.
The roadshow was successful in reaching the public, who got this information at the comfort of their work places and homes. As a result, we have started getting reports of more people seeking information on PrEP and enrolling for the daily HIV prevention drug.
By Eddy Ingutia