Gender, Health & HIV/AIDS

The Health, HIV&AIDS desk has continued to contribute to the reduction of National HIV prevalence in this country. Factors such as religion, gender inequality, undefined gender roles, poverty, migration, and urbanization have a key role to play in facilitating HIV infection. Other factors that influence the vulnerability of individuals and groups include social background, age, race, and sexuality.

Due to stigma, churches have not been able to respond effectively in prevention care and support of the infected and affected. In the last two years, ADS-Kenya has implemented its HIV programs through its Religions and Gender project using the Family Dialogue model as a communication tool to reach out to both Anglicans and non-Anglicans within the country.

The Health desk has incorporated women’s governance in its mandate of building the capacity of the community especially women to participate in the democratic governance of this country. This has been driven by the desire for affirmative action and not more than 2/3 representation rule of either gender in leadership and decision making process positions as enshrined in the new constitution.

Improving access for effective HIV service delivery through VCT

This project is supported by Christian Aid Kenya. By developing this project ADS-Kenya expected that: – through training and mobilization of faith and key community leaders there will be awareness creation on the importance of VCT to reduce the risk of new HIV infections and access to care, treatment, and other support services; and that more faith leaders would be involved in responding to HIV challenges.

This project targets the church leaders both Anglicans and non-Anglicans and encourages the Christians to go for couple counseling and testing as a prevention strategy. We have been able to reach out to the clergy, key church leaders and ADS Regions’ program staff who went through de-stigmatization and need for VCT.

Efforts to respond to HIV and AIDS challenges have led the Church to be more innovative in meeting the needs of the communities including those that are marginalized and less able to respond due to their religious, social-cultural beliefs and practices, social-economic and gender disadvantages.

The Church and Stigma

Stigma is the biggest hindrance to the church in responding to HIV. More church leaders and clergy need to be de-stigmatized so that they can encourage their congregation members to go for HIV testing. The general information that communities and most congregations have about HIV is not enough to make them respond effectively on matters pertaining to HIV.

A press statement released in GENEVA, 12 May 2011- said, “Results announced by the United States National Institutes of Health show that if an HIV-positive person adheres to an effective antiretroviral therapy regimen, the risk of transmitting the virus to their uninfected sexual partner can be reduced by 96%.” ACK joins in the celebration of such a great achievement and is at the forefront in encouraging not only individuals but couples to go for VCT. This will help couples to minimize the transmission thus we recommend the church to encourage not only personal testing but couple counseling and testing. In doing this we will prevent more infections by helping more people know their status, help them manage the disease progression and treat any infection.

Women Empowerment Project

The project aims at empowering women to participate in Democratic Governance both at the county and national level through strengthened leadership skills in decision making, access to the right information and linkages. The project targets key women leaders and organized women groups in the counties to collectively advocate and lobby for key issues that affect women and the girl child. The project involves the training of key church leaders in the dioceses to spearhead and support women’s leadership in the counties.

Creating awareness of gender disparities and how they impact negatively on our church and communities creates a platform where people review their practices and highlight areas that need to be addressed. This includes sharing with all church members on the gains that are in the constitution about gender and governance.

The project challenges the church to be more proactive and use her influence to participate in the political leadership of this country. As a result, more men are concerned and participating in gender roles and women involvement in decision-making processes.

Enhancing gender in governance

This is a one year Norwegian Church Aid (NCA) supported project whose objective is to build the capacity of local women to participate in the governance of this nation. As a rollout of the project ACK looks at itself internally through a gender audit on its institutions, structures, and policies in relation to Gender and governance and representation. From the gender audit, it was recommended that the church needs to come up with a theological bible study guide on Gender-sensitive reflections in her priorities and practice. This guide will also lead to civic education to sensitize the church on the importance of being involved in the leadership of this country and more participation of women in voting and representation in governance/decision making structures. UN Women supported training on encouraging women to actively participate in governance in their counties through a Gender and Governance awareness project.

ADS-Kenya and Regional ADSs have been promoting gender approaches, equity and active participation of women in decision-making and economic empowerment at all levels.