EGPAF LAUNCHES EXPRESS HEALTH SERVICES FOR ADOLESCENTS IN KENYA

Adolescents performing a poem to entertain the crowd during the EGPAF / ViiV Red Carpet Program launch in Homa Bay, Kenya.

Florence Dzame, EGPAF Kenya

The Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation (EGPAF), with funding from ViiV Healthcare, launched a new program on June 28, 2016. A one-year, renewable award from ViiV Healthcare’s Positive Action for Adolescents Fund, will allow EGPAF-Kenya to implement the program in 50 sites in Kenya’s Homa Bay County.

The Red Carpet program, targets adolescents with HIV to help curb rising infections and AIDS-related deaths among the group; it is geared towards improving access and uptake of HIV testing and counseling, as well as retention to care and treatment.

Homa Bay has the highest HIV prevalence rate in the country. In Kenya, 30% of all new HIV infections occur among youths, aged 15-24 years – and 1 in 5 adolescents in Homa Bay is HIV-positive. Poor linkage to and retention in HIV care, high loss to follow-up between testing and initiation of antiretroviral treatment (ART), and poor treatment adherence are contributing factors to AIDS now being the leading cause of death and morbidity among Kenyan adolescents and young adults. (Kenya National AIDS Control Council. Kenya’s Fast-track Plan to End HIV and AIDS Among Adolescents and Young People. September 2015. Accessed on June 15th, 2016.)

Adolescents are the future of this country. We must walk with them, encourage them and keep [an open dialogue] with them, to ensure they remain healthy even if infected with HIV.

Cyprian Awiti, Homa Bay County Governor

EGPAF has found that adolescents are particularly affected by the disease due to common challenges with treatment -- contributed in part by poor parental and social support, stigma and fear associated with being HIV-positive, and especially, lack of access to youth-friendly services.

The new adolescents-focused express services program will aim to curb HIV infections among the group. Through the program, adolescents who have been newly identified as HIV-positive will be given priority when they attend clinics, and will not have to wait in long lines with other patients.

The ViiV Red Carpet program will also support adolescents to be enrolled into psychosocial support groups, train peer educators, and offer disclosure, adherence and nutrition counseling.

The program will join forces with health clinics and community health advocates in Homa Bay to strengthen meaningful involvement of adolescents and young adults in their own HIV prevention, care and treatment programs. Empowering youth to care for themselves will increase the capacity of health workers in provision of adolescent and youth-friendly HIV services.

“The program has assisted us [in realizing] that [in order] to make our services convenient and accessible to adolescents, we need to move the clinic days to the weekend,” said Carolyne Adongo, Nursing Officer at Rangwe Sub County Hospital.

Other guests also praised the new initiative and its benefits to the county.

The County Executive Committee member for Health, Dr. Lawrence Oteng’, applauded the program, noting that timely access to sexual and reproductive health services will likely reduce new infections among adolescents, and particularly young women.

The County Executive Member for Education, Dr. Naftalli Mata, spoke of the growing number of school-going adolescents who are living with HIV and called for expansion of adolescent friendly services in schools

Dr. Eliud Mwangi, Country Director for EGPAF-Kenya, reiterated the importance of prioritizing adolescent health in the county and gave assurance of EGPAF’s support.

“EGPAF focuses on ensuring that every child and adolescent is not only protected from HIV, but also promptly diagnosed and initiated on lifelong treatment when infected. We envision a future free of HIV/AIDS for our children and families,” said Dr. Mwangi.