United Kingdom Parliamentarians & the One Campaign visits HOPE worldwide Kenya (HWWK) HIV prevention program in Nakuru County funded by Global Fund (GF) through Kenya Red Cross Society (KRCS).

By Tabitha Muia & Samuel Kamiri

Welcoming a visitor is an important African virtue. It takes time to plan and host an important person in one’s home and from childhood most communities are taught the virtue of hospitality. This was not an exception on 23rd September 2015 for the Global Fund partners working in Nakuru County as they were hosting the Global Fund round 10 donors from the United Kingdom (UK). The team comprising of representatives from the UK parliamentarians, the ONE campaign and advocacy team paid a visit to the PMTCT and HCBC programs in Naivasha sub County and Key Population program run by HOPE worldwide Kenya (HWWK) in Nakuru County. The visit was planned in a way to ensure the visitors made the best of their short visit and interaction with the beneficiaries.

The project is implemented by HWWK through support from KRCS (Prime Recipient) with a focus on increasing access to HIV testing and counseling (HTC), expanding treatment services for the prevention of mother to child transmission (PMTCT), care and support for the chronically ill. Additionally, key population- Sex Workers (SWs) and Men who have sex with men (MSM) who are considered most at risk (MARPs) of HIV infections are targeted with focused interventions. This programme responds to critical gaps in Kenya's fight against HIV and AIDS.

DR. Oren N. Ombiro the Sub County Ministry of Health addressing the visitors.

The host team was eager to receive their visitors with a Kenyan welcome. The visitors made a road trip from Nairobi to Nakuru County as they enjoyed the beauty and scenery of the Rift Valley. To some, this was their first time in Kenya and Africa. The host comprised of members of the Global Fund Kenya Coordinating Mechanism, Ministry of Health, National AIDS & STI Control Program, National AIDS Control Council, office of the Governor-Nakuru County, the Kenya Red Cross Society and HOPE worldwide Kenya.

The Global Fund supplements government efforts in the fight against HIV, TB and Malaria and the UK contributes one third of the entire Global Fund budget. Not only was the team on a mission to understand the programs and their contribution to health care but also to advocate for increased funding.

The first stop was Maraigushu dispensary and workers in Naivasha sub-county were very welcoming. The Sub-Country Ministry of Health (MOH), DR. Oren N. Ombiro took time to introduce his Team each one taking pride in their team effort that had transformed Maraigushu community.

The host team was eager to receive their visitors with a Kenyan welcome. The visitors made a road trip from Nairobi to Nakuru County as they enjoyed the beauty and scenery of the Rift Valley. To some, this was their first time in Kenya and Africa. The host comprised of members of the Global Fund Kenya Coordinating Mechanism, Ministry of Health, National AIDS & STI Control Program, National AIDS Control Council, office of the Governor-Nakuru County, the Kenya Red Cross Society and HOPE worldwide Kenya.

The Global Fund supplements government efforts in the fight against HIV, TB and Malaria and the UK contributes one third of the entire Global Fund budget. Not only was the team on a mission to understand the programs and their contribution to health care but also to advocate for increased funding.

The first stop was Maraigushu dispensary and workers in Naivasha sub-county were very welcoming. The Sub-Country Ministry of Health (MOH), DR. Oren N. Ombiro took time to introduce his Team each one taking pride in their team effort that had transformed Maraigushu community.

A Community Heath Volunteer shares her experience during the visit

Their gratitude was echoed by the Community Health Volunteers (CHVs). “Before the GFR10 project began in Naivasha, we would travel for about 20 kilometers to access medical care at the Naivasha sub country referral hospital. The pregnant women would find it better to deliver in their homes which posed a challenge of low survival rate for the children.” Say’s Jane a CHV.

This is now a thing of the past; the community health volunteers are engaged to mobilize the community and educate them on health care matters. HIV positive patients can access medical care at no cost and 100% of them are now on care and treatment. The stigma has reduced significantly. HIV patients are empowered to handle their families. No children are dying because of HIV, the mothers attend all four antenatal clinics, very few mothers are delivering at home and exclusive breast feeding is emphasized for the first six months.

“Work hard for your families because you are not dying,” Jane, a community health volunteer describes the conversations she holds with the people living with HIV.

During the visit, the community saw an opportunity to present their request to the Global Fund donors. They requested for an equipped laboratory to be fitted at Maraigushu health facility so that the community can receive lab tests at the facility as clients get discouraged when they are referred far distances for these service. They added that having lab facilities will motivate the community and increase adherence.

Their gratitude was echoed by the Community Health Volunteers (CHVs). “Before the GFR10 project began in Naivasha, we would travel for about 20 kilometers to access medical care at the Naivasha sub country referral hospital. The pregnant women would find it better to deliver in their homes which posed a challenge of low survival rate for the children.” Say’s Jane a CHV.

This is now a thing of the past; the community health volunteers are engaged to mobilize the community and educate them on health care matters. HIV positive patients can access medical care at no cost and 100% of them are now on care and treatment. The stigma has reduced significantly. HIV patients are empowered to handle their families. No children are dying because of HIV, the mothers attend all four antenatal clinics, very few mothers are delivering at home and exclusive breast feeding is emphasized for the first six months.

“Work hard for your families because you are not dying,” Jane, a community health volunteer describes the conversations she holds with the people living with HIV.

During the visit, the community saw an opportunity to present their request to the Global Fund donors. They requested for an equipped laboratory to be fitted at Maraigushu health facility so that the community can receive lab tests at the facility as clients get discouraged when they are referred far distances for these service. They added that having lab facilities will motivate the community and increase adherence.

The team visited a project beneficiary who was enrolled in Home & Community Based Care (HCBC) after testing HIV positive, was expectant; her CD4 count was low and had lost hope in life. The beneficiary was followed and supported by the project through her CHV who ensured she followed PMTCT and adhered to drugs. With smiles and courage, the client shared her story with the visitors how she contemplated committing suicide but because of the support she received from the project through her CHV who constantly visited and offered psychosocial support to her, she was able to move on and accept her HIV status. She continued to share how she followed the CHV and health provider’s advice and her baby is 2 years old now and HIV free. She continued to share how she has become an ambassador of telling other women it is possible to be HIV positive and give birth to a healthy child.

Mr. Julius Nguku gives an overview of the Global Fund Round 10 program at Nakuru wellness center.

In Nakuru town, HWWK runs a wellness center that addresses HIV prevention needs of key populations. This population includes female sex workers and men having sex with men. This segment of the population is key in the fight against HIV. Services offered include risk reduction counseling, provision of condoms, HIV testing and counselling (HTC), ART, STI screening and treatment, informational, educational and communication materials (IEC), cervical cancer and TB screening, referrals and linkages. Structural services are also provided and key populations are supported with information and trainings on alternative livelihood which include starting and running businesses that provide them with choices beyond sex work. The wellness center works closely with the police to address gender based violence.

“We need more women in position of power because many people will benefit,” A UK lady parliamentarian said to the female sex workers group. “You too can become a member of parliament”. Their faces were filled with signs of doubt and disbelief that someone would think so highly of them.

The program has succeeded as a result of community ownership. They call it ‘our place’. “It is our first stop whenever we encounter challenges even before we report to the police,” says a peer leader.