Peter Onchuru Mokaya: Let men ‘chukua selfie’

HIV and Youth

Youths in Baringo during a past World Aids Day.

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

As the world shifts significant energy and resources to fighting the Covid-19 pandemic, the HIV threat remains. Today being World Aids Day, we are reminded that the global target of ending Aids by 2030 may be missed if the male gender is not empowered to realise its critical role in fighting the HIV/Aids pandemic.

Granted, we are not at ‘Ground Zero’. For instance, HIV prevalence in Kenya has reduced from 10.1 per cent in 1996 to 4.2 per cent in 2020 as per the World Bank’s statistics. That is significant progress!

From the community insights, many men tend to rely on the results of their partners as an indication of their HIV status. The distribution of free HIV self-test kits that started by Population Service Kenya and its partners in November 2019 has expanded the space of HIV self-testing in the informal settlements of Nairobi. The innovative intervention mostly targets men aged 20-34, who basically tend to visit health facilities when their health is compromised.

Manual guides inserts are of great help for those who take the kits to test at their convenience. Referral and linkages pathways are at the core of self-testing; those whose kits are available to them are linked to standby HIV testing service counsellors, whom they can contact through a toll-free number at their convenience for further assistance.

HIV-positive clients are subjected to confirmatory tests at a health centre or Ministry of Health-approved HIV testing centres and then confidentially linked for care and treatment. But we can’t brag that the HIV self-test kit campaign is the silver bullet to fighting HIV and Aids but rather a significant contributor to realising an HIV-free society by 2030.

It is said that good things come to those who wait. But I suggest that men jump out of the fear of knowing their HIV status and take advantage of the fact that one can obtain an HIV self-test kit from the local pharmacy and test at home. But it is good to visit the nearest health centre to confirm your status.

Mr Mokaya is the executive director, U-Tena Youth Organization. [email protected].