Kenyan Health Ministry Launches HIV, TB Communication Campaign To Reduce Stigma, Discrimination Among Health Workers
The East African on Monday examined how a campaign recently launched in Kenya to increase awareness about HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis will affect health care workers in the country. The Kenyan Ministry of Health in collaboration with the National AIDS Control Council and CDC launched the campaign to bolster communication and awareness of HIV/AIDS and TB to reduce stigma and discrimination associated with the diseases.
The multitiered program, which was launched last month, encourages health workers to be tested for HIV and to learn about the link between HIV and TB. The program also will provide treatment for health workers who are living with HIV or TB. Under the program, HIV-positive health workers will encourage colleagues to be tested for HIV and TB and to seek treatment. The program was launched at selected clinics in Nairobi and Nyanza, the two provinces with the highest rates of TB and HIV/AIDS in the country.
James Nyikal, permanent secretary of public health and sanitation, said the program aims to reduce stigma and discrimination associated with HIV and TB. Nyikal said that many health workers in the country do not know their HIV status, which has hindered the government's efforts to reduce HIV-associated stigma and provide adequate health care at public clinics.
According to Nyikal, health workers who know their HIV status will be able to provide better care for patients. "The way patients are treated by health workers determines whether they would accept testing or adhere to treatment, and this requires that health workers lead by example," he said. Nyikal added that health workers should be regularly tested for HIV and TB. "There is still a great challenge in fighting stigma and discrimination among [health workers] who are infected with HIV/AIDS," he said, adding health workers should "overcome" the stigma.
Nelly Muga -- an HIV-positive health worker in Machakos, Kenya -- said that some health workers living with HIV or TB have "misplaced professional pride" and believe it is "shameful for a medical practitioner to confess to being HIV-positive." Many health workers do not receive HIV or TB tests even when they have symptoms of the diseases, which has led to unnecessary deaths, Muga added (Ayieko, East African, 6/1).