HIV stands for human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and is a lentivirus (a subgroup of retrovirus) that causes HIV infection and over time acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS).
This year on the World AIDS Day the theme is “Right to Health” and the World Health Organization is pushing the agenda “Everybody Counts”.
Some quick facts from WHO include:
There were 36.7 million people living with HIV at the end of 2016.
As of 2016, 20.9 million people are receiving antiretroviral treatment worldwide.
Seven out of ten pregnant women living with HIV received antiretroviral treatment.
The WHO African Region is the most affected region, with 25.6 million people living with HIV in 2016. The African region also accounts for almost two thirds of the global total of new HIV infections.
In Africa AIDS is the leading cause of death and its transmission is widely because of unprotected sex. Unfortunately there are just six countries in the world where half of the 15 to 19-year-olds are living with HIV and one of them is Kenya.
From childhood to adulthood it is such a vulnerable time that with the increasing social pressures, there is early entry to sex. Also there is the lurking danger of younger people having sexual relationships with the older generations.
Children are getting knowledge from their parents, extended family members, and schoolmates and unfortunately from their tablets and mobile phones. They are browsing through porn sites and watching illicit music videos that are arousing their hormonal activity. We are living in a conservative Kenyan culture in both Asian and African families. Do not be fooled by the picnic trips and school adventures that happen out of town that there is no sexual activity going on. It can even happen during wedding functions or religious days. When teenagers have access to cars or even Uber trips, then their movement is lucid and anything is possible. This is not to through off alarm bells, but that impossible conversation has to happen.
Before the conversation can happen, all parents must have their two cents of education that should primarily come from the school or community. All schools both public and private need counselors who begin with a special course for the teachers and workers too, because sometimes a cleaner can spot unusual behavior for example in the toilets that teachers might miss out. Since 2013 the Ministry of Education in Kenya has worked actively introduce Sex Education in the schools, but if the teachers are shy or not confident with their own sexuality and the subject, they cannot set good examples or convey the message properly.
Community centres should have peer group outings and perhaps on a monthly basis discuss a topic. The topic can vary from entrepreneurship to AIDS. Children and teenagers are suffering silently because of domestic violence, financial difficulties, separated parents, unruly family members, drugs and the list goes on. Sometimes parents have an idea but are too embarrassed to consider counseling, thinking that this applies to mad kids. But mental health problems can lead to suicide or a rebel teenager who can end up using sex to get their relief.
The UNAIDS and African Union have included the access to comprehensive sexuality education (CSE) as part of their HIV response programs. However much needs to be done and Kenya being a very religious country it is important that these programs are implemented at Churches, Mosques and Temples too.
Kenya is one of the 12 countries using social media to spread this education.
However better access to Internet and cheaper smart phones will allow the children and teenagers to use it properly.
Both boys and girls are vulnerable to increased sexual activity. Thus, find better peer groups where their mind is on games, books or a charitable activity. Remind them what’s real and definitely teach them about condoms and contraception, because if anything a sexually transmitted disease can be life threatening for their future. Sometimes it helps to be honest with your children and tell them how it was for you so they know that you were once just like them in their place.