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Thika marks World AIDS day with focus on counselling services.

Susan Gitau and Gladys Chania conversing during the forum to mark World AIDS Day at a Thika hotel.
Thika on Friday joined the rest of the world in marking World Aids Day, with special emphasis on counselling services extended to not only those infected but also the affected.

While addressing participants at a Thika hotel, counsellors and psychologists drawn from various parts of Kiambu County acknowledged that HIV/AIDS had had a devastating impact at individual, household and community levels and that there was a great need for the government to supplement the preventive and curative measures with counselling services to both sets of people.

“The government needs to realise the importance of counselling services to both the victim and their families. This is one area that has been forgotten or deliberately ignored that is why the rate of infections are still high. Counselling is as important as the medication to tame the disease,” said Dr. 
Susan Gitau, a Counselling Psychologist and lecturer at Nazarene University.

Susan noted that stigma was killing so many HIV victims thus the need to address the issue. Efforts to address the AIDS pandemic, she added, were hindered by stigmatisation therefore the need for a well-designed programme aimed at humanizing the disease and those affected and infected by it was very necessary.

“Stigma is a great barrier to seeking HIV/AIDS related services including counseling and testing since it leads to secrecy and denial by infected people. Fear of shame and embarrassment as well as the anger of infection that has led to so many secondary infections which can be avoided through counselling,” she said.

She appealed to her colleagues to lobby for funding and support for their work from both the National and County governments since counselling had been rendered out of reach to the poor due to its expensive nature.

Gladys Chania Mwangi who is the proprietor of ‘Right@Home Alcohol and Drug Abuse Rehabilitation Centre’ in Thika, said that drug abuse, prostitution and the HIV prevalence were interrelated and there was no way they could be divorced.

She said that most of the new infections emanated from drug abuse and eventual prostitution both of which could also be tracked down to poverty.

“Right now, the HIV Positivity Rate for Thika stands at 2% up from 1.7% last year. The HIV prevalence in Kiambu County is at 5.6% with the prevalence at 8.2% compared to men 2.9% meaning that women are more vulnerable due the high rates of their poverty levels,” she said.

This, according to Chania, called for concerted efforts geared towards fighting poverty and economic empowerment among the youth and women.

The World AIDS Day is marked annually to raise awareness on the AIDS epidemic, its impact on persons infected and affected and also remember those who have died from the epidemic.

The day was marked in Kenya under the theme ‘Stepping up For Prevention Youth Plan’.

According to statistics, at least 97 young people in the 10-24 age bracket get infected daily, contributing to 51% of new infections. Young women are more affected than their male counterparts. And although stigmatisation has gone down by 46%, a lot still needs to be done.

Young people aged 15- 24 are leading in HIV infections in Kiambu county because they are known to explore the changes that occur in their bodies during their teenage years. Some of them get infected with HIV as they seek love and a sense of belonging, ending up falling into traps.

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