In January 2012 a further meeting was held with some of the trained facilitators, who reported on what they had been able to achieve. All were able to tell how they had introduced the Living Well ideas to their own groups, how enthusiastic those people were, and how putting these ideas into practice had helped them deal with challenges such as adherence to medication and reducing stigma.
Most of the facilitators were able to report that not only had they been able to inform and guide members of their own HIV+ support groups, but they had been able to reach out to other groups as well. Up to 10 more groups had been reached in this way, with a membership of up to 300 people, which is great! Challenges remain though- stigma is still a big issue, some local religious leaders are preaching against the taking of ARV drugs, and the continuing poverty works against many of the attempts being made by people living with HIV and AIDS to improve their lives. There are also many more groups yet to be reached.
The meeting concluded with two firm intentions: to visit religious leaders and inform them of the implications of their actions, and to begin running further public awareness events to educate people further on HIV and AIDS- although the disease has been around a long time and ARVs have helped the disease to be more manageable, there is still a low level of awareness amongst the general public.
Although the initiative of working with HIV+ people in and around Mariakani started as a programme, SCR (our implementing partner) have now gone a step further by including some of the participants in their recent strategic planning process when the dirsction of the organisation was charted for the next 3-5 years. In this way, the HIV+ voices were heard and listened to in the process, and their views reflected in the final plan for the organisation. This small effort ensures that the organisation remiands close to its target groups and provides the sort of support and guidance as wanted and needed by the HIV+ groups.
While the trained facilitators continue to work with the support groups, our partner in Kenya, Support for Community Response, has been through a strategic planning process in which ongoing work with the Positive Self Management programme was agreed as a priority. Discussions are now going on with the facilitators to prepare a proposal for funding for the next stage.
The facilitators trained in January continue to be involved with their HIV+ support groups. At a review meeting held in May 2011, the facilitators reported that they have been able to train over 100 of their HIV+ friends and colleagues, focusing on issues such as drug adherence, use of condoms, disclosure and how to plan.
Tom, one of the facilitators, was able to convince 10 of his friends to be tested for the virus. All of them proved to be positive and are now taking ARVs (anti-retroviral drugs). The facilitators also reported the changes in their own lives as a result of the training, with Loice sharing how her planning skills have improved, and Chailette reporting her better adherence to the drugs she needs to take.
Stigma remains a big challenge in the community, making disclosure much more difficult for HIV+ people, but the facilitators are confident that the understanding and skills they are able to pass on are helping people cope better and giving them more confidence. They are keen to see their work expand to reach more support groups in the Mariakani area.
In January, the first training of HIV+ facilitators took place in Mariakani, near Mombasa, Kenya. Carried out by Beatrice Imali and Hellen Kagwiria, the training designed to provide the seven participants with skills and techniques that help them to improve and maintain their physical and mental health.
The participants came from three HIV/AIDS support groups, Tumaini la Bwana, Afya and Kanepha (with a total of around 90 members) and part of the trainees' role in the project is to pass what they have learnt to their friends and colleagues. Visiting Tumaini la Bwana a month after the training, John Cornwell (representing ICA:UK) was impressed by how the trainees had been able to pass on what they had learnt, and the increased levels of confidence and skills the groups were able to show. A more formal follow-up is planned for later this month.
With the success of this first part of the project, we are now looking at ways to extend the approach to a further 10 HIV/AIDS support groups in the Mariakani area.
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