BY DANIEL OTIENO
According to United Nations International Children’s Fund, Kenya is among the world’s top three countries with the highest numbers of HIV-infected adolescents, with an estimated 130,000 infected (ages 10–19) and 18,000 new infections occurring each year (ages 15–19).
Therefore Empowering adolescents through provision of school uniforms and sanitary pads can contribute greatly to reduction of HIV and sexually transmitted infections among adolescents.
Lack of these necessities often leads adolescents to fall prey to sexual predators, making these young people vulnerable to HIV, sexually transmitted infections and unintended pregnancies.
Research has shown that however much we train teachers in sexuality education, there is also a need to ensure adolescents have access to basic needs.
Unless adolescent girls are able access school uniforms and sanitary pads, they may be forced to seek it from unhealthy sources that include their peers. Therefore integrating poverty eradication in HIV elimination will support the efforts to combat HIV among adolescents.
In addition, the conditional cash transfers proposed by the government of Kenya as a strategy to reduce HIV among adolescents should be broken down to include purchase of sanitary pads.
Ensuring accountability in management of HIV funds at county level and prioritizing health education by the Ministry of health and Ministry of education will ensure children remain in school, are in good health and free from sexually transmitted infections.
To ensure prevention is accompanied with information, recruiting peer educators at community level to support their peers through HIV education is also needed. Furthermore, implementing programs in most at risk places will ensure resources are based where they are needed without marginalizing prevention activities in other areas.
The constitution of Kenya entitles everyone to highest attainable standards of health including reproductive health. To make this reality we must ensure adolescents have the basic necessities that protect them against HIV.