Let’s Talk About HIV and AIDS

By Ivy Ndiewo, Communication and Documentation Officer, Concern Worldwide

An estimated 1.6 million people are living with HIV in Kenya. While we know that the majority of them are from Nyanza Province, the region in the country’s southwest around Lake Victoria, there is much that we still do not know about HIV and AIDS in Kenya. For example, there are no clear records of the prevalence rate in urban slums, especially when many people likely do not know they are HIV-positive.

Concern Worldwide uses what we call “community conversations” in Nyanza Province as well as Mukuru, a slum east of Nairobi, to break down many of the barriers that keep people from getting tested, and if they are diagnosed, taking antiretroviral (ARV) medications. We first piloted the approach in 2010 as a way for people to talk about their challenges and find solutions. There are now 24 community conversation groups across Nyanza Province and in Nairobi’s urban slums—all of which tackle HIV and AIDS head-on.

I spoke with my colleagues Belinda, Jane and Julia, who are all community conversation facilitators in different areas of Mukuru. They said that community members see HIV and AIDS as one of their biggest challenges, with orphans and single parenting on the rise due to HIV and AIDS. Many are living in denial of their status, refusing to take ARVs. This is exactly where community conversations come in.

Jane said that it was very difficult to get community members to understand that HIV and AIDS is a virus, not a curse. “We managed to take approximately 150 people to different centers to start taking ARV medication through community conversations,” she said. “It is unfortunate that people are still living in denial—very few people are going for counseling and testing, while others have refused to take ARV medication because of the stigma around HIV and AIDS.”

Community conversations also pushed 80 people from other parts of Mukuru slum to start taking ARVs. “We have established a support group for people who are HIV-positive,” said Belinda. “We support them in what they do so that they can feel part of the society and I am happy to tell you that we don’t have anyone who is bed-ridden because of HIV and AIDS in my community.”

Nyanza Province is no different, with stigma and discrimination keeping many from getting tested and on a treatment plan. An estimated nine percent of people living in Nyanza Province are HIV-positive. Crippling poverty and deeply embedded cultural practices, like wife inheritance, drive the spread of HIV. Through community conversations, Concern is educating the community on HIV and how the virus is spread. We encourage mothers to get tested at ante-natal clinics (which are more discrete than a testing facility) and we worked with a local chief to discourage promiscuity and promote condom use.

Community conversations are where that dialogue begins—and silence will never put an end to HIV and AIDS. We need to keep talking.

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pam w.
pam w5 years ago

It's all about education fighting superstition and ignorance. In South Africa, it was widely believed that sex with a virgin would "cure" AIDS.

Gysele van Santen

thank you for this article. it's too bad to see the usual ignorant comments by the same anonymous jerk trolling as usual.

nicola macdonald
n macdonald5 years ago

Educate and support

Dijana D.
Dijana D5 years ago

the most important factor in combating HIV/AIDS is education, plain and simple

Sandra Streifel
Sandra S5 years ago

Darryll G, all these people in Africa are dying because of male to female sexual contact. If we had less homophobia and hate, perhaps we could have dealt with HIV/AIDS better as a Public Health problem, rather than having it at the point it is at now, where it is well-controlled in every industrialized nation of the world but the USA, just as the economic collapse of austerity and state funding for health clinics collapsed in 2008. That is not the fault of the natural sexual functioning of any orientation of human beings, as you see, it could have broken out in the straight community as in Africa.

Winn Adams
Winn A5 years ago


Debbie L.
Debbie Lim5 years ago

Their greatest foe is ignorance. If they know more about it and are given the right information, they can save their own lives and the lives of others too.

Mary C.
Mary C5 years ago

The aid to these people must include education as well as all forms of birth control including sterilization. Everywhere. What is NOT right is any child starting out life HIV positive.

Lisa Eveland
Lisa Eveland5 years ago


rene davis
irene davis5 years ago

Thank you for the article