HIV/AIDS2017-11-08T23:19:56+00:00

As a member of the AIDSFree partnership, IMA World Health engages community health workers and religious leaders to help foster testing and treatment, with a special focus on youth. These faith leaders spoke about their efforts to reach commercial sex workers in Korogocho, one of Nairobi’s toughest slums. Photo by Matt Hackworth

HIV and AIDS services

For years, IMA World Health has implemented and strengthened a full range of conventional community- and facility-based interventions to prevent and treat HIV and AIDS, all of which support the UNAIDS 90-90-90 targets. But this year we learned something new: empowered faith leaders can be more effective at generating referrals for HIV support services than community health workers in some communities in Kenya.

About 97 percent of Kenyans ascribe to a religious affiliation. Recognizing faith communities’ unique power to influence societal, cultural and structural factors, IMA and our partners at the Christian Health Association of Kenya created the AIDSFree Khutbah and Sermon Guides on Children and HIV For Religious Leaders. The guides are filled with vital information about HIV transmission and prevention; stigma and discrimination; treatment, care and support; and male involvement in the HIV prevention and response continuum.

Afya Jijini supports the Determined, Resilient, Empowered, AIDS-Free, Mentored, and Safe Women, or DREAMS, initiative, which enrolled 4,434 adolescent girls and young women ages 10–24 this year.

In an AIDSFree pilot program funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development through the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, we distributed the guides to Christian and Muslim religious leaders in the urban informal settlements of Korogocho in Nairobi. The participating religious leaders gave 69 sermons and 25 khutbahs that tied these messages to their holy texts, and they held 41 peer-support group meetings. Out of 1,950 completed referrals during that time, 84 percent were from religious leaders. It’s clear that faith leaders are both powerful and caring allies against HIV in this community.

IMA also leverages and strengthens conventional channels for HIV prevention and treatment. IMA manages the USAID Afya Jijini project, which works to increase access to and use of quality health services—especially HIV and AIDS testing and treatment services—in Nairobi City County, which has one of the highest HIV burdens in the country. This year, Afya Jijini tested 242,972 clients for HIV, achieving 271 percent of its annual goal and leading USAID to recognize IMA as one of the most successful PEPFAR partners in Kenya. To exceed this goal, the project focused on supporting and strengthening 29 high-volume Comprehensive Care Clinics, 43 elimination of mother-to-child transmission sites and 78 HIV testing services sites.

Afya Jijini also supports the Determined, Resilient, Empowered, AIDS-Free, Mentored, and Safe Women, or DREAMS, initiative, which enrolled 4,434 adolescent girls and young women ages 10–24 this year. Through DREAMS, Afya Jijini mentors and empowers young women to reduce sexual risk, strengthen families and promote change in community norms to stop the spread of HIV. Participants in DREAMS receive access to HIV testing services, reproductive health and family planning counseling, vocational and income diversification training and more to empower healthy choices, resilience and opportunity.

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The AIDSFree Khutbah and Sermon Guides on Children and HIV for Religious Leaders were developed to empower religious leaders with the tools and skills to reach their congregations with key messages on pediatric HIV transmission and prevention; stigma and discrimination; and treatment, care, and support; as well as male involvement in the HIV prevention and response continuum. Both guides were developed in collaboration with religious leaders.

It takes a network of community health workers, youth and religious leaders to reach places where children are at risk for HIV.

Read on.