Washington — In the summer of 2010, football fans throughout Kenya watched the FIFA World Cup matches on televisions alongside HIV/AIDS community counselors who had a message for viewers: Get counseled and tested today.
The World Cup was a perfect time to implement Kenya’s creative campaign to spread the word about the importance of knowing one’s HIV status and how to access HIV counseling and testing services.
The four-week effort was sponsored by Kenya’s Ministry of Health with support from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and local and international nongovernmental groups.
“It has been difficult to reach men, so using something that men like — like watching football — was a good opportunity to offer testing services,” said Isaac Malonza, Kenya director for Jhpiego, a USAID partner and an affiliate of Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. Jhpiego staff worked with Kenyan health officials to help them move toward their goal of reaching 80 percent of adults and adolescents with HIV testing by 2013. To kick off the campaign, Nicholas Muraguri, head of Kenya’s National AIDS/STI Control Program, volunteered to be publicly counseled and tested. (STIs are sexually transmitted infections.)
Malonza and his colleague Silah Kimanzi will present the results of the campaign July 24 at the International AIDS Conference scheduled for July 22–27 in Washington.
Kenya’s demographic and health survey conducted in 2008 and 2009 found that only 40 percent of men ages 15–49 reported that they had been tested for HIV and knew their status. That compared to 57 percent of women in that age group.
The campaign was concentrated in Eastern Province, where the HIV prevalence is slightly higher than the national average of 7.1 percent.
Organizers partnered with some of the province’s bar owners, targeting those with large-screen televisions. They erected testing sites in marketplaces, put television screens in public places, and visited prisons, hospitals and other workplaces. At night they toured areas frequented by sex workers and their clients. They organized soccer games for youth.
The HIV teams of about five each visited 64 places. Of the 125,580 males reached through the campaign, 40 percent were tested for the first time. In addition, 130,140 women were tested, 31.7 percent for the first time. Men were encouraged to seek testing and counseling services if they knew a friend had done the same. Increasingly, men began to bring their partners for testing, Malonza said.
The campaign’s success led the Kenyan government to provide more resources for HIV/AIDS prevention. That support is bolstered by the country’s community health strategy started in 2006, Malonza said.
Whether you are a fan of an English, Ghanaian or Brazilian team, knowing your HIV status is a world-class goal.