By Fredrick Nzwili
The National Council of Churches of Kenya on 17 February launched a programme that seeks to empower men to actively participate in the global journey towards an AIDS-free generation.
The programme, titled “Faith and Community Initiative,” seeks to increase the number of men and children who know their HIV status. It also seeks to stop sexual violence against women and children.
“We appreciated that the suffering Jesus went through, because it means he is able to understand and help those who go through challenging times, including those affected or infected by the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV),” said Rev. Canon Chris Kinyanjui, the National Council of Churches of Kenya general secretary at the launch attended by heads of member churches of the grouping.
The Christian Health Association of Kenya, Evangelical Alliance of Kenya, Seventh Day Adventists and the President's Emergency Plan For AIDS Relief, are among the partners in the initiative.
The launch comes as global commitments seeking to end new infections by 2030 gather momentum. Experts believe erasing new infections sets the ground for the onset of an HIV-free generation worldwide.
According to UNAIDS, 1.6 million people were living with HIV in Kenya in 2018. The HIV prevalence - the percentage of people living with HIV among adults (15- 49 years) was 4.7 percent. At least 46,000 people were newly infected, while 25,000 died of HIV related complications.
Seeking to accelerate the programme, heads of the National Council of Churches of Kenya’s member churches made a range of commitments. These include public HIV testing to inspire similar action within the congregations and strengthening the rites of passage programmes within congregations and using them to instill positive values in youth and children. They will also fight stigma by creating healthy environments for persons affected and infected with HIV and AIDS.
Some other commitments include creating champions for an HIV- free generation among men and protecting children against violence, and regularly disseminating information on HIV and prevention of sexual violence against children.
“We are confident that these interventions will overcome the (four) main hurdles that hinder the journey to an HIV-free generation,” said Kinyanjui.
In Kenya, according to the group, incorrect perceptions about HIV, forced sex and sexual violence, high numbers of Kenyans who are not aware of their HIV status and men’s poor involvement in the initiatives made to combat HIV and sexual violence against children, are the main hurdles standing in the way towards an HIV-free generation.
“We (are) calling upon all our clergy to draw the distinction between HIV, the virus, AIDS the disease, and moral character. Let us all work to empower men to play their roles in the journey towards an HIV-free generation,” said the leader.
The National Council of Churches of Kenya is a fellowship of Protestant Churches and Christian organizations in Kenya.
Fredrick Nzwili is a freelance journalist based in Nairobi, Kenya