By Leonida Kombo

 

According to UNICEF, Eastern and Southern Africa are home to half of the world’s population living with HIV and AIDS with youth in particular, being at a higher risk of infection.  As the world observes World AIDS day, mSurvey had a conversation with Kenyan millennials to understand how  the growing education on HIV and AIDS has influenced or changed their attitudes on the subject.

HIV/AIDS education was introduced into Kenya’s school curriculum in 2003 in hopes of preventing HIV transmission at a young age. The National AIDS Control Council (NACC) has since set up various HIV prevention strategies, from awareness campaigns, to free HIV testing and counseling centers and even widespread condom  distribution campaigns.

All of these efforts seem to be positively influencing younger Kenyans. A grand 98% of youth we spoke to actually believe HIV/AIDS education has changed people’s attitudes towards HIV.  95% believe that the use of condoms helps reduce HIV transmission and a surprising 98% have had an HIV test at least once in their life time. Those who haven’t tested stated they were too busy.

When asked, 58% of Kenyan millennials said they were uncomfortable marrying a HIV positive person, mainly due to the fear of getting infected however 42% were comfortable with the idea arguing that marriage should be based on love.

90% of millennials believe that a HIV positive person can still live a full life, probably owing to the fact that 88% of the youth we spoke to know someone living with HIV.  Just 5 years ago many people believed that HIV was a death sentence both physically and socially. Though stigma is reducing and progress is being made on young people’s attitudes towards HIV, stigma still occurs. Our conversation revealed that the main reason why people fear being diagnosed with HIV is stigmatization.

mSurvey supports hundreds of people living with HIV in Africa. Currently we’re working with the University of Washington in Thika, Kenya on the SCIP Project (Safe Conception Intervention for Partners).  With this project we send daily SMS conversations to monitor, identify and predict a woman's fertility period to ensure safer conception among couples where one partner is HIV positive and the other is HIV negative.

As awareness of HIV continues to increase in Kenya, innovative projects play a huge role in reducing stigma of HIV positive people by spreading hope and showing society that they too can live normal and full lives.