As a young African leader, coming from a community largely affected and infected with HIV is my biggest motivation to choosing HIV prevention research advocacy as a focus. There are many widows, orphans in my village whose husbands and parents demise resulted from HIV. Many young girls in my place engage in transaction sex which has led to high increase in the spread of HIV. Poverty along the lake basin region where many work from hand to mouth has also forced young and old women to engage in sex in exchange for fish so as to feed their families and have access to material good that would enable them to acquire some of their basic needs (sanitary towels, cash, beauty products , food & clothing). This has increased the spread of the virus in the community. Many young girls and women in my community do not have access to Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights information and services due to lack of supportive environment and the general neglect of people in the rural areas when it comes to matters of Health among Women, Adolescent and Young people. These are my pushing factors to educate, inform and empower women, girls and young people in my community to embrace the practice of safe sex and be number one champions in the reduction of HIV rates in Nyanza region. One of the greatest needs for prevention advocacy in my country is how to fuse Advocacy and Behavior Change communication so as to target people’s attitudes and behaviors making it easy to reduce and manage the Virus spread. There is also need for the allocation of funds in advocacy to allow for the contextualization of messages to reach women and young people in the rural areas who do not have access to digital means of communication.
Biggest challenge to my HIV prevention advocacy efforts in my country is seeing communities being number one in Promoting Stigma & discrimination due to ignorance and lack of training on attitude change among people living with HIV. Some of the community messages are not as friendly as they tend to violate others’ Rights to expression and freedom of movement, especially for those living with HIV. Communities fighting the introduction of sexuality education to young people both in and outside of school is yet another challenge. Without this, young people engage in sex using information gotten online and without prior knowledge and skills on safe sex thus leads to increased new Infections among young people.
It becomes hard for a preventive advocacy if the key gatekeepers are the opposition in the fight for quality health care. I am however hopeful that the relentless HIV prevention efforts will lead to the discovery of a HIV vaccine and even in the process provide a cure for the virus. ARVs now have the ability to reduce the viral load to a point of U=U (undetectable=untransmissible therefore there's a high chance of getting a vaccine and a cure for the virus Through my advocacy efforts I want to see my government take keen interest in new HIV prevention technologies through funding of research institutes and supporting them in the quest of finding a vaccine. Kenya government also needs to fulfill their commitment to allocate 15% GDP on health which will help accelerate the research. I also want to get my government committed to working closely with CSOs towards zero related HIV /AIDs deaths in my country. Kenya needs to source for funds internally and not be donor dependent when it comes to matters HIV. I want to have my government engage fully in Domestic Resource Mobilization that will see to the achievement of the highest health standards. The AfNHi youth cohort platform enhances my advocacy as the platform equips me with different advocacy and technique skills from other young leaders. We get to share best practices in holding states and government accountable when it comes to health matters. It also provides an avenue for youth voices. It’s time as a young person, I be given space to talk about my issues, and AfNHi youth cohort provides me with such a space to talk about issues affecting rural women, girls and young people that leads to the increased spread of HIV.