Advocacy club unveiled to combat HIV, GBV and early pregnancies in Homa Bay
Communities in Homa Bay County have been tasked to combat HIV, Gender-Based Violence (GBV) and teenage pregnancies at the village level as cases of these threats continue to spiral.
A meeting held over the weekend was shocked to learn that 10 new cases of GBV are reported monthly in almost all the eight sub-counties in the county, with little action from the authorities as perpetrators walk scot-free.
At a public forum during the unveiling of a Community Advocacy Club (CAC) in Oyugis Town, Homa Bay County, a local narrated how a bodaboda rider is repeatedly abusing young girls he lures with cheap gifts and ends up dumping them.
“This man marries in the morning, and by evening he has divorced, and when we report these cases, no action is taken as he is only arrested and not booked. It’s sad that when we pursue this matter police turn a blind eye, whereas the perpetrator threatens to kill anybody who reports him,” a woman who sought anonymity said.
In view of this, the AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF), a self-funded non-governmental organization with roots in the US has unveiled a program to empower patients and non-patients to advocate for their rights and engage in healthcare decision-making processes.
“We are taking back management of HIV, GBV, teenage pregnancies and reporting of other health shortcomings to the community,” Mary Nyaguthii, AHF- Kenya’s HIV Prevention Program Manager said, noting that the move is also aimed at making an impact through advocacy by having a team that will specifically act as the voice of community.
By mobilising communities and addressing underlying health issues, Nyaguthii noted the CACs aim is to increase HIV patient care, improve access to healthcare services and contribute to the overall well-being of individuals in areas of the country where the triple threat (HIV, GBV and teenage pregnancies) is prevalent.
Apart from Kenya, the program runs in 13 African countries affected by HIV/AIDS. The countries include; Eswatini, Ethiopia, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Nigeria, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
The 20-member club comprises change agents in the community including youth, women, men, people with disabilities and key populations.
“This club – which was initially designed for 12 members - will serve as a group to mobilize and empower patients to advocate for their rights in healthcare decision-making processes. It will work closely with AHF-Kenya country and regional programs,” Nyaguthii said.
Similar clubs will be established in the coast and Nairobi Regions.
“The key task here is to help increase patients in care, improving health service delivery, promoting citizen/patient participation, and accountability in health service delivery,” she said.
Currently, most of the health facilities across the country have run out of Tuberculosis drugs, and the Foundation’s Advocacy and Marketing Manager, Pauline Laibon sensitised the community members to report some of these shortages.
“We have a shortage of TB drugs in the health facilities at the moment; poor roads, poor sanitation, rising GBV cases, reported rape incidents, STIs and teen pregnancies in Homabay County. You will be required to raise your voice on these issues,” she told the CAC.
The club will have a budget to run the advocacy programmes across the county including; regular training, meetings, and linkages with authorities will ensure effective coordination and implementation of CAC activities at all levels.
The club's activities look to complement the new Community Health Promoters (CHPs) launched last week by President William Ruto.
The CHPs, like CAC members, will work and train people in villages and households on preventive healthcare.
In total, 315 Primary HealthCare Networks (PCNs) where the CHPs have been deployed, will be operationalized through the establishment of the governance, coordination, and financial structures for PCNs.
These PCNs are purposed to foster the integration of care across levels of the health system and improve the efficiency of the health system by providing care at the optimal level and ensuring that no one is left out.
According to Laibon, the primary objective of the CACs is to mobilize and empower communities to advocate for quality healthcare services.
“The CACs will also address the underlying issues affecting patients' health and well-being and cross-cutting public health issues,” she told People Daily.
In close collaboration with AHF country and regional programs, the CACs will undertake various activities to achieve their objectives, including; supporting and advancing AHF advocacy efforts at all levels. This will also involve supporting advocacy actions such as lobbying processes, public demonstrations, town halls, media engagement, and campaigns among others.