World AIDS Day: Rescuing adolescents and youths from HIV/AIDS jaws

HIV/AIDS has been affecting millions globally and masses remain heavily burdened. Burying the stigma around the patients and supporting those infected and affected has never been as timely. PHOTO/CL.
HIV/AIDS has been affecting millions globally and masses remain heavily burdened. Burying the stigma around the patients and supporting those infected and affected has never been as timely. PHOTO/CL.

As the world marks World AIDS day today, the statistics of new infections and new deaths remain worrying. 

The theme of World AIDS Day 2022 is ‘Rock the Ribbon’, with the focus being stopping the rising infections, securing the rights of AIDS patients, and burying the stigma imposed upon the patients.

Globally, as of 2021, according to the World Health Organization, 38.4 million people are living with AIDS, and 650,000 died from it in 2021, among whom were 98000 children aged below 15 years.

A whopping 1.5 million contacted the virus in 2021 alone.

The heads of respective departments in Eldama Ravine sub-county, Baringo County, Kenya, are not only monitoring the statistics but are also soiling their hands to ensure they tactically trace the spread of the virus in the sub-county. 

Adolescents and young persons living with HIV are receiving key attention even as the department of Public Health Service in Eldama Ravine, headed by Jeremiah Cheruiyot, serves 60% of the adolescents.

This group of adolescents and young people are born with the virus, while some of the adolescents acquire it through various ways as they grow, including through molestation, rape, and incest.

For Cheruiyot, it is not easy to identify these adolescents and youngsters living with HIV. 

The process is quite gruesome and shocking for some of the families.

Tracing the disease

Most patients who go to the Eldama Ravine sub-county hospital seeking treatment are treated and given the relevant guidance. 

However, some require a lot of testing to determine the course of their medical problem. 

Some doctors will have already identified some of the symptoms. They are later asked for consent to test for HIV, which is when the statistics add up.

When the tests are out, the patient is taken under a counseling session and allowed two weeks to think of being started on Anti Retro Virals (ARVs). 

The two weeks period is to help the patient have a moment to think and digest what he or she was told through counseling. The family, if involved, will have an opportunity to shape a bright future for their member.

Cheruiyot and his office would follow up on the cases after two weeks and ensure they engage professionally and humanely to ensure the patient starts on ARVS. 

The sub-county has already identified the High Volume ARV type hospitals, which are only two: the sub-county Hospital in Eldama Ravine and The Mercy Mission Hospital. 

The patients are also linked to Care and Treatment by Adolescent champions, health partners assisting HIV patients aged 10 to 19 years. 

There is also another channel, The HIV Raisin Surveillance, that focuses on patients above 15 years, monitoring their infection rate.

The patients’ time of infection, whether recent or long-time, is also considered.

In July 2022, Cheruiyot, through social meetings in the various areas of the sub-county, discovered that most infections were long-term infections. This helps to keep track and come up with ways of combating the rising infection rates, if any. 

“In cases involving adolescents and young people aged 10 to 19 years, we involve the parents or guardian because these are school-going children. We have a way of involving the school departments, both primary and secondary schools, to be responsible and ensure they give the medication appropriately,” says Cheruiyot, Eldama Ravine Public Health Officer.


The parents and guardians become treatment supporters because ARVs are taken throughout the patient’s life and should be adhered to.

“We have successfully supplied ARVs to schools through these treatment supporters. Importantly, disclosing the child’s status to the parents or guardians and the school is done in stages. Discloser done to those within five to nine years is different from those between ten to nineteen years; there are approaches to disclosing,” he explains.

Cheruiyot says that health education, which helps create awareness in schools, mainly involves requests from the Principals. 

After the awareness, the head of education takes up the process. 

The HIV Programming partners or stakeholders are also involved. 

In the case of Eldama Ravine sub-county, Jeremiah Cheruiyot is tasked as the HIV/AIDS Coordinator. At the same time, Ruth Chelala, another health officer, is assigned as the County AIDS Control Coordinator (CACC). 

She majorly coordinates the school program involving the office of the president.

Such health education programs are tactically taught to schools involving general HIV issues, prevention of early pregnancies, and gender and sexual violence.

They aim to sensitize the students and pupils and remove the stigma.

Cheruiyot says through such forums, they have students seeking more clarity on their health, and as a department involved, they oblige. 

Other than that, some partners have come up to support female sex workers to regain better lives. 

This is done through training and mapping, identifying the key areas and offering peer education. Meetings are organized by partners who go beyond the community to do the screening.

Cheruiyot says in such undertakings, involving the community gives a glimpse of what they are dealing with. 

However, it is only primarily practical when there are partners involved. He says the main challenge facing his office is the funding to always make it a routine to have a follow-up on the community with the public.

Most cases registered and supplied with ARVs are only walk-in patients. Not all walk-in patients diagnosed with the virus are willing to use the ARVs. Some remain inactive due to disbelief and sudden change in their lives.

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On the issue of introducing sex education in schools, Cheruiyot says they will follow the government guidelines. To date, condoms are supplied in any health facility, and there is no formula on who should pick them and who should not.

Cheruiyot says that even as the world marks HIV/AIDS Day, “As an individual Kenyan, you have a right to know your status and access ARVs until your viral load is suppressed.”

In the Eldama Ravine sub-county, the services are offered in any health facility in Eldama Ravine medical institutions.

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Janet Kiriswo is A Multi-lingual certified professional Journalist (English, Swahili and Native Kalenjin). Holder of a Bachelor`s degree in PR & Communication skills from Moi University, A Diploma in Mass Communication from The Kenya Institute of Mass Communication, (KIMC), with over 15 years active experience in the media industry. She thrives in covering stories matters that touches on Business, Health, community, Culture and Traditional issues and progress, Politics, Interviews and leaderships among others. She poses other skills in Public Relationship, Communication consultant, Radio presentation, broadcasting, visual feature stories, video/voice recording and editing among others. She strongly believes in changing the world through Communication.


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