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HIV/AIDS: We Will NOT Die Like DOGS! Printable Version PRINTABLE VERSION
by Moses 2005, Kenya Mar 25, 2006
Education , Health , Poverty   Opinions
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HIV/AIDS: We Will NOT Die Like DOGS! AIDS WAR: We (youths) should NOT die like dogs

The preparing of children for school and coordination of scarves suits preoccupied most minds of those filing out of Kenyan homes on Thursday morning. On the lapels of but a few, was a plash color, in the form of a red ribbon, symbolic for AIDS awareness. Stigma, discrimination and/or the fear of being ostracized coiled up support: A random activist and lone sufferer made their statement.

In New York, thousands of miles away from my homeland of Kenya, a small group of about 30 or so gathered to solemnly watch “We will not Die like Dogs”, a defiant documentary directed by film maker Lisa Russell.

“Do you know what your government’s HIV/AIDS policies are?” Russell challenged, “And do you monitor them?” The IMPORTANCE of the questions would unravel with the film – a feature on four African AIDS activists combating the pandemic from the grassroots. “Africa is dying”, Russell noted; “Enough said”.

While little remains unknown about how the virus spreads, much talk – and many questions seem to be centering on the United Nations General Assembly Declaration of Commitment signed in June 2001. It promised the reduction of HIV prevalence by 25 percent (among those aged 15-24 years) and an increased annual spending on HIV/AIDS to the tune of $7-10 billion in low and middle income countries, experiencing, or at risk of experiencing rapid expansion of the HIV epidemic.

The commitment also covered countries in sub-Saharan Africa, where it pledged to, “ensure that 90 percent of young people have access to the information, education and services necessary to develop the life – skills required to reduce their vulnerability to HIV infection”. A far cry from reality! Are our (youth) strategies wrong? As has always been the case, plenty of attention remains focused on the ABC’s of HIV/AIDS – the “Abstinence, Be faithful and use Condoms” approach. But does this solve, in any measure, the catastrophe that Africa faces with its alarming orphan rate; and should interventions, efforts and policies NOT focus more on the youth and building their capacities?

Minors, it should be noted, comprise about half of the sub-Saharan population. It is they, and NOT older counterparts, that national priorities should point to. How else can we incept our poverty cycle when so many orphans are illiterate?

My country, which I happen to adore and love dearly, Kenya, has made some effort in this regard by providing free primary education; but problems linger. About four million AIDS orphans in sub-Saharan Africa are currently not attending school. In Kenya, a majority of those orphaned by HIV/ADS experience difficulty with attendance, owing to household responsibilities, stigma, discrimination and the inability to purchase school uniforms, among others.

It is not entirely hopeless. Collaboration, like the GYCA, and closer home, such as that launched by the Kenyan government; Pathfinder International and UNFPA, which focus on adolescent reproductive health and development policy, are a good start to encouraging,

“Youth to become actors in their own health and development, and ensuring that this critical segment of the country remains in good health, it thereby paves way for the future social and economic achievements”.

Yet the challenge remains if these efforts are implemented without tackling the underlying problems of poverty, illiteracy and disease – the items that render them vulnerable. Few have taken this to heart like Kenyan Dr. Olubayi Olubayi. He is the founder and chair of the Global literacy Project, which has placed public libraries across Machakos, Teso and Bungoma Districts. More recently, the project poured books into South Africa’s Caroll Shaw Memorial Centre, which caters to AIDS orphans and recovering drug addicts.

Dr. Olubayi, a lecturer at the Rutgers University in the US, sees this as our government – in black and white: “Literacy is a tool for self empowerment and poverty eradication”, he asserts, “and we know that HIV/AIDS and other infectious diseases succeed most where there is entrenched poverty. Why not, as our project is doing, fight the pandemic through literacy? It is logical and we are showing success”.

I wore my red ribbon on World AIDS Day, but I know little will come from it unless our government realizes that funds are a commendable start. Youth play a pivotal role against this disease, and this may be a commendable start, but NOT ENOUGH! Hungry children cannot read. Uniforms are NOT free, and what happens after high/secondary school? These are the government's responsibility, and something which can be addressed with increased political goodwill, as well as the reprioritization of resources. We MUST address the future because ALL sentiment aside, much is at stake. It is time, as activist Janet Feldman says, “to pray for the dead and fight like hell for the living”.

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Moses 2005

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nice story
Kenneth Odhiambo Ouma | Jun 24th, 2006
I think what has been written by you touches on the current society which in effect gives some hope for our good country and its people. What do you think my fellow buddies?

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