Kenya: Wanted – Anti-HIV Messaging for the Age of Social Media

THE National Aids Control Council says 17 per cent of Aids-related deaths occur among adolescents and youth. This is a distressing statistic and strikes right at the heart of the nation’s future. Twenty-nine per cent of new infections occur in that 15-24 age group.

Some Kenyans will call for a revival of sex education in schools, which is likely to be met with powerful resistance from the faith sector.

Last June, there was public outcry over a proposed Reproductive Health Bill, after some people interpreted it to require that contraceptives be supplied to school children. Perhaps it is time we stopped burying our heads in the sand over sexually active teenagers and give them well-regulated access to condoms.

In February, the President launched the ‘Global All In’, a campaign aimed at reducing new HIV-Aids infections among adolescents and young women. This is a step in the right direction, tackling both the provision of life-saving medication and a review of the school curriculum to include lessons on how to deal with the scourge. But the most crucial intervention will be an updated HIV-Aids awareness campaign. NACC director Nduku Kilonzo says the major challenge is the generalisation of HIV messaging. This is a shame in the age of social media and hash tags.

Stakeholders must step up to the plate with messaging that smartly targets specific age groups. Information and awareness remain the first and last lines of defence against the spread of HIV-Aids. QUOTE OF THE DAY: “Here comes the orator with his flood of words and his drop of reason.” — US writer, inventor, diplomat Benjamin Franklin died on April 17, 1790

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