Call for adherence to medication dominate Kisumu HIV/AIDs Candlelight fete

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Call for adherence to the use of AntiRetroviral (ARVs) drugs by People Living with HIV dominated the celebration to mark this year’s AIDS Candle Light Memorial.

Speakers at the event held in Kisumu on May 19, observed that this is a sure way of tremendously reducing the numbers of those who succumb to the scourge.

The speakers noted that concerted campaigns on the same must now target the youths and teenage pregnant girls.

“We will continue to create awareness in our churches, temples, homes and villages to speed up the attainment of 95.95.95 HIV treatment target and put to an end AIDS as a public health in line with WHO’s 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda,’’ noted Erick Okioma, Team Leader Nelson Mandela TB and HIV Information CBO.

The memorial is a program of the Global Network of People Living With HIV which is a movement focused on HIV/AIDS remembrance, awareness, and action since 1983.

It brings together communities worldwide to unite and be at forefront in the fight against HIV/AIDS and its related stigma.

Okioma noted that their advocacy platform focuses on four pillars; reducing stigma and discrimination; ensuring access to treatment, prevention, and care; increasing resources for HIV/AIDS, Malaria, and Tuberculosis; and promoting greater involvement by affected communities.

As I signed the note in their remembrance, it really pains me that some of them passed on due to the disease. I am also here to advocate for awareness and adherence to taking our medication regularly as per the doctor’s instructions

Otieno Jagot, a member of Kisian Red Ribbon Community Based Organization

Under this years theme; “Together We Remember, Together We Heal through Love and Solidarity,’’ the Candlelight Memorial focused on the breaking barriers, fostering community involvement and bringing hope to present and future generations.

This, the gathering noted, can only be achieved through awareness creation, policy change advocacy, inclusion of affected communities in policy-making and program implementation, and empowering those most impacted, especially women and youth.

Fatuma Wambui, founder of a 20-women member Muslim led-Altakwa CBO said they have been keen on fighting the disease, stigma and discrimination.

“We have been advocating for a reduction in new HIV infections in line with 2030 goals; encouraging our members not to fear taking drugs, and sensitize the public to embrace HIV patients. Initially we used to have people affected being chased from their own homes, but that has now change with our continuous advocacy,” she said.

According to the National Syndemic Diseases and Control Council (NSDCC) latest data, out of the 17,680 new infections in Kenya, 41 percent are aged between 25 and 34.

The data further shows that for over a decade, the country has registered a downward trajectory of 78 percent in new infections which was 101,448 cases (2013) to 22,154 (2022).

Kisumu County had posted 14.5 per cent increase, and Homa Bay leading the pack at 15.2 per cent nationally as per the NSDCC findings.

Candlelight procession in Kisumu

More resources to fight HIV/AIDs

The hallmark of the colourful event was the lighting of red and white candles which flickered to form a beautiful ribbon shape with the happy participants standing behind it. Earlier to commemorate the day, the group held a procession from the Jomo Kenyatta Highway into the venue.

Okioma pointed out that more resources should be channeled towards the fight against HIV/AIDS and research on its vaccine.

“Unlike Covid-19 which came recently and has a vaccine, there is need to inject more resources towards HIV research and it’s very possible to come up with a vaccine. This will end this scourge which has ravaged particularly most communities in the Sub-Saharan Africa,’’ he said.

He lauded this year’s event as a success due to the high turnout of the communities who shared their life ordeals. The media, he noted continues to play a pivotal role in amplifying HIV-related issues and support from the well wishers.

“As I signed the note in their remembrance, it really pains me that some of them passed on due to the disease. I am also here to advocate for awareness and adherence to taking our medication regularly as per the doctor’s instructions,’’ Otieno Jagot, a member of Kisian Red Ribbon Community Based Organization.

He encouraged those who are stigmatized to come out and help in fighting HIV/Aids as it is not a death sentence but a manageable problem.

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