HIV/AIDS Awareness Efforts Face Difficulties in Northern Kenya, Health Workers, Advocates Say
Some health workers and advocates in Kenya's North Eastern Province recently said that HIV/AIDS awareness campaigns face difficulties in the region because of its remote location and culture, IRIN/PlusNews reports. Ijara, a district in Kenya's North Eastern Province, has recorded the lowest number of people living with HIV in the province at 130. However, the "stigma associated with HIV/AIDS is very, very strong here," Mohamed Abdikadir Sheikh, Ijara's medical officer, said. According to Sheikh, HIV/AIDS still is associated with magic, witchcraft and evil spirits by many people in the region, leading them to seek ritualistic instead of medical treatment. The voluntary HIV counseling and testing center in Ijara "remains idle because the local community believe they cannot contract the disease," Sheikh said, adding, "We need an aggressive awareness campaign in these remote areas."
According to IRIN/PlusNews, the remoteness of the area, cultural taboos and the transient nature of the population create difficulties for groups already working to create HIV/AIDS awareness. The group Isiolo Youths Against AIDS and Poverty said it is limited in its abilities to spread awareness in the region because of a lack of resources and ethnic conflicts. Ali Boru, an IYAP official, said open discussions of sex and sexuality are discouraged by the largely Muslim population, adding, "We have no picture or poster of a condom here -- we cannot take the risk." According to IYAP official Amina Abdullahi, the young age of the group's educators also hinders awareness efforts because the "culture does not allow me to advise or discuss any sexual matter with a woman who is older than me" (IRIN/PlusNews, 8/21).