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Day Two: December 4
Note that Session V, reported above together with Session IV, occurred on the morning of Day Two. These sessions on institutional responses were followed by a session focusing on student-led activities.
SESSION VI: Student-Led and Other Activities
The workshop received excellent presentations by student leaders from Maseno University, University of Nairobi, and Kenyatta University, where students have generated a very creative array of outreach activities in response to the HIV crisis.
Each of the students reported the establishment of peer-to-peer counseling and advisory functions, employing a variety of outreach methods, including events involving plays and skits, songs and dances, and artwork, and educational materials using mixed media including videos, newsletters, magazines, and posters. Maseno University's Peer Education Club (MUPEC), for example, organizes activities such as an AIDS Campaign Day, trains selected students as counselors, and publishes a magazine called "Private Eye." MUPEC partners with students in Communications and Media Technology in order to use media creatively and improve the "packaging" of its messages for more effective dissemination. MUPEC helps to fund itself by organizing movie nights and making a pool table available for a fee.
University of Nairobi students have also organized an AIDS Awareness Campaign, featuring events including a beauty contest to attract interest, and combining this feature with an AIDS talk and dissemination of educational materials. University of Nairobi students coordinate their activities through a variety of student groups that do not necessarily focus exclusively on AIDS, but incorporate an HIV/AIDS focus into their particular group activities, for example by holding a competition among the groups for best AIDS campaign.
At Kenyatta University, the students are organized not as a club, but specifically as a peer counseling service, originally established to deal with student pregnancy but now focusing largely on HIV. Prospective counselors are screened in a multi-stage process and then trained extensively by professionals for eight hours a day for ten days before going into the field. Kenyatta now has 50 peer counselors, half of them male and half female, and in addition to holding events and producing educational materials in various media they perform group and door-to-door counseling.
While each of the groups has enjoyed success in raising awareness of HIV issues, each also reports similar continuing problems. Despite the high rate of infection, an attitude of "it can't happen to me" remains prevalent among students, use of condoms is resisted, abstinence is a "non-issue," and negative attitudes towards infected individuals persist. The students also noted religious barriers to HIV prevention, identifying among various groups a resistance to speaking of sex at all (on the grounds that it promotes immorality or should be restricted to married couples) or a persistent anti-condom stance.
Marion Field Fass of Beloit College also spoke at this session, addressing her remarks on the subject of "Bridging the Gap between Science and Health." Dr. Fass noted that health status is a characteristic of populations, and that individual health is neither entirely predictable nor entirely controllable, but is subject to "good and bad luck" since social and environmental circumstances play a key determining role. She posited three intersecting circles of influence with regard to HIV: a circle of science (virology, microbiology, etc.), a circle of individual behavior and education, and a circle of social factors including human rights. She reported that at her own institution the approach was one of problem-based learning, i.e., teaching skills and content through the analysis of complex and interesting real-world problems. More information on her approach can be found at her course website at http://biology.beloit.edu/emgdis/index.html.
Finally, this session also featured a compelling presentation by Eunice Odongo, representing Women Fighting AIDS in Kenya (WOFAK), a Nairobi-based NGO established in 1993. Ms. Odongo's talk focused on the issue of disclosure or non-disclosure of one's HIV status and the respective effects thereof. In keeping with her argument that disclosure is essential, Ms. Odongo began by stating that she herself was HIV-positive.
She distinguished between voluntary and involuntary disclosure, first of all, and between partial and full disclosure. Full disclosure is "going public" with one's HIV-positive status, including to friends, family, colleagues, relevant organizations, and/or the media; partial disclosure means telling a select few people in confidence. Non-disclosure means telling nobody at all about one's HIV-positive status, and may indicate some level of denial on the part of the infected individual.
Arguments in favor of disclosure include:
Consequences of disclosure can include:
Consequences of non-disclosure can include:
In sum, Ms. Odongo strongly encourages HIV-positive individuals to consider a planned, informed disclosure, and recommends the development of university policy guidelines to facilitate and support such disclosure.
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Maseno University (powerpoint)
Maseno University (PDF)