Ambassadors of Hope – The fight against HIV stigma in Kiambu – Kenya
World over, a decline in HIV prevalence has brought hope to many. However, people living with HIV in rural and urban areas in Kenya continue to face challenges brought about by discrimination and stigma. As a result, community members who are living with HIV shy away from disclosing their status. This lack of disclosure has contributed to the spread of HIV as well as the rise of stigma. It is for this reason that Kiambu People Living with HIV (KIPEWA) was founded in 2001.
As a build-up to mark World Aids Day, 2020, KIPEWA put together a bold plan aimed at being a conversation starter. A beauty pageant dubbed Ambassadors of Hope in which participants who are living with HIV got to tell their stories of triumph over the challenges they face every day was an effort beamed at ending HIV related stigma and discrimination. The beauty pageant created awareness on HIV and positive living.
KIPEWA gave a platform to PLHIV to share their stories to prove that it is possible to live a quality life while living with HIV. The models, who are PLHIV, got an opportunity to showcase their lives and activities they are involved. This went on to demonstrate that an HIV diagnosis does not stop productive living. It was a statement declaring defiance against a diagnosis that would possibly cripple one’s life
“Even as we mark the 2020 World Aids Day on December 1st, we need to focus on the things that enhance the spread of HIV, particularly gender imbalance, poverty, stigma and discrimination against people living with HIV,” said Grace Waruguru, KIPEWA Executive Director
In the larger Kiambu County, KIPEWA serves over 1700 adults living with HIV and over 1200 orphans and vulnerable children (OVC). We facilitate support groups in 17 different community areas. These are run through our 17 trained community health volunteers.
Support groups are pivotal among the tools that we use in prevention and care for the community. Educating, sensitizing and mobilizing communities through support groups on prevention of HIV as well as care and treatment have helped in reducing new infections. Through support groups, we have also continued to address the issues of HIV stigma and to empower the people we serve to fight and overcome HIV stigma.