Kenyan University Launches Program To Address HIV/AIDS-Related Stigma
The AIDS Control Unit at Maseno University in Kenya has launched an initiative to address stigma surrounding HIV/AIDS by encouraging students to avoid offensive language regarding the disease, IRIN/PlusNews reports. Maurine Olel, coordinator of the control unit, said, "We are working with student clubs, students leaders and other partners to ensure that students are ... sensitive to their colleagues who might be living with HIV," adding, "When you create stigma, other efforts geared towards fighting HIV become hard to implement." Rosemary Wambui, a psychologist and counselor at the control unit, said, "Students are generally aware of HIV, but it is important to fight stigma ... and what it is that causes it, including the language, because it leads to silence and denial, which are big hindrances to the fight against HIV."
Evelyn Wanderi, who participated in a recent workshop on stigmatizing language, said common use of some stigmatizing terms discourages open discussion of HIV/AIDS and testing. She said, "[T]his is the surest way to lose the battle against HIV." The Ministry of Health and the Commission for Higher Education have partnered with I Choose Life Africa -- a nongovernmental organization working in HIV management and control in universities -- to train around 4,000 HIV/AIDS peer educators in universities. Maseno is one of several universities that require students to take HIV/AIDS courses prior to graduation (IRIN/PlusNews, 4/7).