We are one and a half years into the project at this point, so in terms of the big picture, it’s too early to evaluate the full impact. We have; however, seen a number of indicators that it’s having a real and positive effect on adolescents and their families even at this early stage.
For example, at the outset of the project a number of the adolescents with whom we work didn’t know that they were HIV positive. Because their parents weren’t comfortable discussing HIV, they had not disclosed that the disease had been passed on through mother-to-child transmission. Consequently, the adolescents didn’t even know why they were taking ARVs – and this was one important reason why adherence rates were low. Thanks to the dialogue fostered by ACT, parents are now disclosing this vital information. In fact, as of our last report, 100% of our parents/caregivers with HIV positive children had done so – and adherence rates are improving as a result.
Obviously, it can be difficult for adolescents to come to terms with having HIV, so we’ve also been working with them to understand what it means to be HIV positive, and that they can still move on with their lives in a productive, healthy manner.
“The other day we had a red ribbon extravaganza which was a beauty pageant for the girls as well as the boys and the winner of that award was a girl living with HIV and she was very happy and she said ‘ok I still achieve what other girls who are not HIV positive can achieve.’ We give them some exercises during their support group to just see where they see themselves ten years from now or what they inspire to be in the future. Even the girls who are HIV positive and even the boys, they will draw pictures of them saying ‘I want to be maybe this professional, a teacher, a doctor when I grow up.’ So that means that this is building confidence and self esteem in these girls and they are seeing that they are not any different from adolescents who are not infected.”
- Esther Muketo, Family Health Options Kenya (FHOK)
In terms of the microfinance component of the project, while here again it’s too early to evaluate the long-term impact; we are seeing some compelling short-term results. For example, we realised at the outset of the project that in some cases adolescents were not able to go on with their medication because of poor nutrition. As a result of the income generating activities made possible by ACT, some of the families that were previously only able to afford one meal a day are now able to afford three. A change like that can make a real difference in improving adherence to HIV treatment, as well as to one’s overall health and well-being. What’s more, some of the adolescents have told us that they are now able to afford school fees, whereas without their new income they would not be able to get an education.
We’ve also seen that adolescents and their guardians are employing more people into the businesses they’ve established, meaning that we are not only reaching/impacting adolescents and their families, but we are also reaching the wider community. We hope that the microfinance component of ACT will enable us to reach more and more individuals, thereby benefiting the broader community and enhancing the stability of our projects.
With a lot of hard work on behalf of all parties, we’ve built a symbiotic relationship between FHOK and microfinance institutions in Kenya, and we’re encouraged by the results it’s produced thus far. Looking ahead, we hope that this partnership will provide a strong model that can be replicated and adapted across the globe.
“I think one of the key impacts we are hoping for, good or bad, is that we be able to use this example from one community in Kenya to say: How can we make sure the links between anybody doing anything around economic support for young women and girls is actually aimed at them? So it will provide some policy changes, guideline changes for microfinance institutions to do the right thing in terms of partnerships with unlike-minded organisations. So I think on that level the impact is going to be global.”
- Kevin Osborne, International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF)