, NAIROBI, Kenya, Nov 30 – HIV/AIDS messages targeted at the youth need to move from the conventional abstinence message to include messages for those who are sexually active, a key official has advised.
The head of the Kenya National AIDS and STI Control Programme (NASCOP) Nicholas Muraguri said that 40 percent of Kenyan youth become sexually active before they reach 19 years old and 75 percent of them do not use protection in their first sexual encounter.
“We all would like our young people not to be sexually active – that’s the perception from the parent – but the reality is otherwise,” he informed.
“Do young people access correct information about sexuality and sex? The answer is No. They still have to use social media and peers and we cannot run away from this,” he stated.
Speaking ahead of the World AIDS day to be commemorated on Thursday, Dr Muraguri noted that HIV prevalence among people between the ages of 15 and 24 years is 3.8 percent.
“People are surviving longer than we anticipated. The children who were born with HIV are no longer children, they are now becoming adolescents, and they are also becoming parents. It brings a whole new dimension of HIV management that as a country we have to face,” he said.
Various HIV/AIDS campaigns targeted at the youth over the years have only focused on abstinence as the only way to prevent HIV transmission.
UNESCO National HIV/AIDS Programme Officer Jane Kamau noted that there was need to link the HIV/AIDS policies from different sectors so as to send a uniform message.
“Young people born with HIV have actually progressed and this is like a shocker, people never expected them to reach that far so we are now faced with a dilemma. We have been talking about abstinence to the young children in schools but what message should we pass now?” she posed.
“Definitely as a society and as a country we don’t expect them to abstain forever but at the same time we need to prepare them so that even as they engage, they are mature and will be able to address their sexual and reproductive health needs,” she added.
19- year-old Dorcas Kawira was born with HIV. By the age of six, she was orphaned. She is now a law student in one of the public universities.
Kawira wants the government to provide training and support in schools for children living with HIV.
“The challenges of these children and young people are many. Like when I recently joined the law school, I was put in a hostel where there were four of us and I was wondering how I was going to take my medication,” she said.
“So you find most of these children when they go to institutions like boarding schools, they quit taking their drugs because they fear people will know their status.”
This years World AIDS day theme is ‘Getting to Zero’.
This means Zero New HIV Infections, Zero Discrimination and Zero AIDS Related Deaths.