Increasing Couple HTC Uptake through CapacityBuilding of Religious Leaders: Experiences from Eastern Province, Kenya. Rev. Simon Shem Ngiki 21st March2013
Who are we?World Provision Centre is a non- profit FBO established in 2001 topromote sustainable access to HIV Counseling and testing in the Eastern region of Kenya.Today we work in two Counties serving a population of 1,983,111 Our main target groups are Couples, Sex-workers and Long Distant Truck Drivers and Youths. We have established Voluntary Counseling and Testing Sites along the famous Mombasa – Nairobi Highway.
Our working environment• Kenya has currently an estimated population of 38.6 Million.• Adult HIV Prevalence in Kenya stands at 6.2% With estimated 1.4 Million Kenyans living with HIV.• KMOT 2009 estimated heterosexual transmission of HIV amongst couples within unions/regular partnership in Kenya to responsible for 44.1% of new infections.
Our Working environment Cont’d• Eastern Region is a highly Christian area with over 80% of all heterosexual relationships being solemnized in church.• Poverty is directly linked with HIV prevalence even within heterosexual relations.• Within the Church establishment HIV/AIDS is shunned as a profane affliction that must not be mentioned in the pulpit.
The InnovationIn 2011 we initiated a six month Project that sought to increase uptake of HTC Services among heterosexual couples by building the capacity of 22 churches in Kenyas Eastern region to promote uptake of HTC Services among their congregations.
How did we do this? – Step 1• Identified 22 target churches within the region.• Invited lead Pastors and their spouses as well as Church Chairmen and their spouses to a two day HIV sensitization Seminar.• Engaged participants on demystifying of HIV/AIDS within pastoral practice.• Tested all participants as couples on the second day.
How did we do this? – Step 2• Pastors and Church Chairmen to use all available Platforms includingthe pulpit to talk about HIV.• All participants to openly attest to having taken a HIV test.• Church leadership to plan for a Couple Voluntary Counselling andTesting Sunday (VCT Sunday) of congregations after Church Service.• Pastors and Church Chairmen together with their spouses to takelead in testing during the Couple VCT Sunday.
So what happened after?• Overall increase in the number of people tested.• An increase in percentage of clients tested as couples from 9% to39%.• Request for repeat of Couple VCT Sundays by participating Churches.• Request from non-participating churches for similar Couple VCTSunday initiatives.
How difficult was it?• Outright refusal to participate in the initiative.• Refusal of participating churches to embrace the Couple VCT Sunday concept.• Mysterious disappearance of men during couple testing sessions.• Managing conflict among discordant couples.
What did we learn?• HIV testing is still largely perceived and condemned as a profanity in the church.• The deliberate silence of the Church further stigmatizes HIV/AIDS.• Couple Testing and Counselling can only be sustained through a church driven demand for HTC services.
...after all is said and doneHIV/AIDS is sitting in the pews of the Church amongst our godly congregation.