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The event was graced by the Vice Chancellor, Prof. Solomon Shibairo who commended the organizers saying that, through the training, the peer educators will be empowered with life skills that will help them facilitate positive life choices and positive sexual reproductive health behavior among students, staff and the University community at large.

“Since the inception of COVID-19, people have focused more on this highly infectious disease and forgotten about other opportunistic diseases like HIV/AIDS, TB, Malaria and even accidents that have stirred so many deaths in the cause,” noted the Vice Chancellor.

The Deputy Vice Chancellor, Planning Research and Innovation (DVC PRI), Prof. Mutai applauded the University’s HIV/AIDS Unit for the crucial role they play in giving students advice and helping them to overcome stigma related to HIV cases. He encouraged the peer educators to continue empowering one another to fight the prevalence of HIV which has been relatively high in Kakamega County.

“Peer education is important and I can strongly attest that we have come a long way to where we are today. With the advantage in affordability and one-on-one interaction, this initiative will help us reach and impact so many lives through increased knowledge that we will gain from this training,” said Prof. Mutai.

The Registrar Planning Research and Innovation, Prof. Alice Ndiema asked the participants to scale up the knowledge gained from the training upwards to the management and scale out the same to their fellow peers. She acknowledged that mental illness is a menace that needs to be looked into seriously and as much as stress is difficult, we should endeavor to manage. 

The Coordinator, ACGDMU Prof. Gladys Mengich spoke about the importance of understanding basic information about HIV AIDS. She said that the impact of HIV AIDS is far reaching beyond us and communities. She added that even though HIV AIDS does not have a cure yet, it can be managed to improve the quality of life of the infected. Prof. Mengich urged the peer educators to continue sensitizing and disseminating information on prevention and control to protect our loved ones.

The Chairperson, Aids Control Unit (ACU) Prof. Elizabeth Omukunda noted that a majority of University students engage in risky behaviors such as alcohol and other forms of substance abuse which has increased their vulnerability in contracting and spreading HIV/AIDS. She said that this is because alcohol consumption leads to promiscuous irresponsible, high-risk sexual behaviors, which interferes with their ability to make prudent decisions such as engaging in safe sex. 

“Dealing with the youths on issues of HIV/AIDS with knowledge will not only empower them but also help them demystify the myths that exist about the chances of contracting this deadly disease,” added Prof. Omukunda.

IMG 2458Prof. Elizabeth Omukunda making a presentation.

Representing the National AIDS Control Council (NACC)-Kakamega County, Mr. Dennis Orina, facilitated on the Linkage between HIV, TB, COVID-19 and Human Rights’“HIV continues to spread throughout the world at an alarming rate. The widespread abuse of human rights and fundamental freedoms associated with HIV has emerged in all parts of the world in the wake of the epidemic. In response, the protection of human rights is essential to safeguard human dignity in the context of HIV and to ensure an effective, rights-based response to HIV and AIDS,” stated Mr. Orina.

Kakamega County’s HIV infection estimates with the participants in the years 2018 and 2021. He noted that in Kakamega County, the HIV prevalence stood at 4.5% in 2018 and 3.9% in 2021 with the total population of People Living with HIV (PLHIV) at 52,976 in 2018 and 46,374 in 2021. In this, adults' PLHIV of 15 years plus was 48752 in 2018 and 44134 in 2021 as children below 15 years totaled to 4224 in 2018 and 2240 in 2021. Our MTCT rate was 13.2% in 2018 and 9.7% in 2021. The PMTCT Need (Est HIV + Pregnancy) was 3294 in 2018 and 2530 in 2021. The HIV related deaths summed to 989 in 2018 and 577 in 2021. Out of these, the cases related to children was at 195 in 2018 and 110 in 2021; the total new HIV infections was at 2197 in 2018 and 1480 in 2021; new infections among children stood at 437 in 2018 and 225 in 2021; orphans tested on HIV estimated to 91,362 in 2021 as those orphaned due to HIV/AIDS estimated to 19,361 out of which 9253 are currently in the program.  

MMUST’s Clinical Officer, Mr. Clevin Aswani, gave a detailed and eye-opening presentation on the ‘Overview of HIV/AIDS and other Sexually Transmitted Infections’ and ‘Reduction of Stigma and Discrimination towards PLHIV’. He informed the participants that women are at a higher risk of getting Sexually Transmitted Diseases as compared to men. He justified this saying that it is caused by their limited ability to negotiate safe sex, larger vaginal surface area, STIs often asymptomatic in women and sometimes the blood transfusion during delivery which predispose women to HIV and Hepatitis B. Mr. Aswani also discussed the common types of STDs, signs and symptoms, STD management and HIV/AIDS.

Ms. Roselyne Abwalaba – School of Nursing, Midwifery and Paramedical nurses echoed Mr. Aswani’s sentiments saying that, when sex is violent or forced, women are put at high risk of HIV infection.

According to Ms. Selpher Sabatia, a counsellor at the University’s AIDS Control Unit, it is important to provide clients with a safe environment in which they will feel comfortable to discuss their concerns including those areas which may feel particularly difficult or shameful. She further urged the counsellors to ensure that counselling sessions are client centered; listening more and talking less.

Other topics featured in the training included the linkage between sexual and gender-based violence and HIV, basic counseling skills’, the role of peer educators in the fight against HIV, non-communicable diseases, interventions, Strategies for Behavior Change, Communication in HIV including Prep & Pep and Monitoring and Evaluation.

IMG 2418

Prof. Danson Lilechi Baraza giving a point.

Peer educators are non-professional teachers talking to, working with and motivating their peers. Through such trainings, the University creates a pool of peers with skills adequate for sustaining conversations directed towards opening up on sexual reproductive health topics. The peers are also enabled to have high risk perception, have peers to peers’ interaction to encourage one-on-one and small group interactions among peers and learn, enhance and adopt leadership values and make informed choices.

Other notable personalities present were the Ass. Professor of Organic Chemistry and the Chairperson Disability Mainstreaming Committee, Prof. Danson Lilechi Baraza, the Director TVET, Prof. Samuel Waweru, Dr. Pauline Adhiambo who represented the Office of the Dean of Students, Senior Lecturer in the School of Engineering and the Built Environment, Dr. Mary Nelima, Ms. Stella Kabugo who represented the Finance Officer, the University’s Auditor, Mr. Rotich and ACU Committee Member, Mr. Victor Dinda, Ms. Judith Shitambasi, Student Welfare Webuye Campus and Ms. Mildred Ojwang’, Clerical Officer from the Office of the Coordinator.

 By Caren Mutoro, Charity Idaya 

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