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House calls for an HIV test

December 3, 2009











It’s easy to avoid going to a hospital or clinic for an HIV test but what would you do if those carrying out the tests came to your house? The Kenyan government recently launched a door-to-door testing campaign and here’s how people in the country are reacting to the programme.

In the village of Asega in the Rift Valley, life is slow and newcomers are rare, so when health workers turned up recently there was a lot of curiosity. They came to test residents for HIV as part of a government initiative.

Most people in Asega are farmers and spend long hours cultivating land. The nearest health facility is a district hospital which is about 30 minutes drive away and many people don’t have the time to go there.

Social worker Faith Nekesa tests about 20 people every day.  When she worked in a hospital only about three people would come in for tests daily.

“These areas are far from hospitals … so that’s why we decided to bring our services here because of the distance and their need,” she told Reuters Africa Journal.

According to the government about 5.1 percent of the country’s 35 million people are infected with HIV. Kenya’s HIV AIDS prevalence rate has dropped by half over the last decade, mainly because of government and donor funded awareness programmes.

However many people still don’t know their status and some are sceptical about mobile testing.

“We are aware that people must be tested but this doesn’t mean that I can be tested on the street; this cannot be, this is like risking my own life,” said one man. “I can’t be tested. This will bring stress and trauma in my life, this cannot be.”

The Kenyan government launched a door-to-door campaign at the end of November this year that hopes to test a million people over a three-week period. Will it win over the doubters?

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