News / Africa

HIV Counseling in Kenya Often Stressful for Both Patients, Counselors

A little more than a year after the Kenyan and U.S. governments launched a nationwide HIV home testing program in Kenya, some counselors in the program say they are feeling overwhelmed. They cite harsh conditions in the field, conflicts in the homes of people being tested and the stress of delivering bad news on a daily basis as contributing factors.

In Kenya door-to-door counselors undergo special training on how to test couples and families for HIV
In Kenya door-to-door counselors undergo special training on how to test couples and families for HIV

Multimedia

HIV counselor Maryanne Wangui and her colleagues had to trudge through ankle-deep mud and streams mixed with raw sewage to get to a settlement outside of Nairobi to test a single mother for HIV.

Wangui says she loves her job with Liverpool Volunteer Counseling and Testing, but in a place like the Kawangware settlement, it can be overwhelming.

"There are some households, you go, there are no seats, there is nothing to sit on," she says. "They [the clients] will also start giving you so many stories. Maybe some have not eaten for days. Some have got problems, although we really try to focus on HIV/AIDS."

The Kenyan and U.S. governments, along with the Global Business Coalition, launched the two-year HIV Home Testing Program in April 2009.

The initiative targets two million people in households across Kenya.

It supports the Kenyan government's goal of informing 80 percent of Kenyans about their HIV status by the end of this year. Kenya's HIV infection rate stands at around seven percent. The highest new infection rate occurs among men and women in committed relationships.

And people in those relationships stand to gain the most from home testing, says Dr. Nicholas Muraguri, head of Kenya's National AIDS/STD Control Program.

"One of the problems we are having is disclosure," he says. "A lot of people come and test HIV positive and they do not inform their sexual partners at all. That limits the opportunity to actually be able to prevent HIV and also access treatment."

Maryanne Wangui
Maryanne Wangui

Finding out that a family member is HIV positive can be devastating. Maryanne Wangui says she and other counselors at times feel like home wreckers when they deliver the bad news.

"I have a colleague who experienced that the lady turned out to be HIV positive and the man turned out to be HIV negative. They said they would not have any commotion, they would go for couple counseling, they would go to Kenyatta [National Hospital]," she said. "But later, the next day, the lady called the counselor and said that she was battered by the man and she was sent out of the house."

Dr. Muraguri says door-to-door counselors undergo special training on how to test couples and families.

But he says there are not enough resources to provide longer-term counseling or even to test everyone who wants to be tested at home. He says the initiative is short 30 percent of trained counselors.

Counselor David Kihiu says the work is stressful.

David Kihiu
David Kihiu

"I tested a family of four who were all HIV positive," he says. "Then, when I moved to the next family, three of them were HIV positive. The third family was also HIV positive. So, [I experienced] a lot of burn-out - I was just wondering, what would these families do with themselves, and I was wondering whether I have actually given the right information. I was just saying, if I test all these families, are they going to be the same? What possible will be there? I was stressed."

Kihiu, Wangui and others turn to their peers and supervisors for support.  Liverpool Volunteer Counseling and Testing holds weekly group sessions and have counselors available to work with staff members who are experiencing anxiety or burnout.

Counselors interviewed by VOA say that, despite the challenges, their work gives them satisfaction. They say they reach many people who normally would not seek out testing in clinics.

You May Like

Captured IS Militants Explain Why They Fought

Fighters from Turkey, Syria tell VOA Kurdish Service what drew them to extremism, jihad More

Security Experts Split on Kenyan Barrier Wall

Experts divided on whether initiative aiming to keep out al-Shabab militants is long-awaited solution or misguided effort More

Video Philippines Wants Tourists Spending Money at New Casinos

Officials say they hope to turn Manila into the next Macau, which has long been Asia’s gambling hub More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grievingi
X
Benno Muchler
March 26, 2015 3:41 PM
Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video US, South Korea Conduct Joint Military Exercises

The Eighth U.S. Army Division and the Eighth Republic of Korea Mechanized Infantry Division put on a well orchestrated show of force for the media this week during their joint military training exercises in South Korea. VOA’s Seoul correspondent Brian Padden was there and reports the soldiers were well disciplined both in conducting a complex live fire exercise and in staying on message with the press.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Young Filmmakers Shine Spotlight on Giving Back

A group of student filmmakers from across the United States joined President Barack Obama at the White House this month for the second annual White House Student Film Festival. Fifteen short films were officially selected from more than 1,500 entries by students aged 6 through 18. The filmmakers and their families then joined the president and a group of celebrities for a screening of their films. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video VOA Exclusive: Interview with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, during his first visit as president to Washington, gave a one-on-one interview with VOA Afghan Service reporter Said Suleiman Ashna, about his request for a change in U.S. troop levels, the threat from the Islamic State, and repairing relations with the United States and Pakistan. The interview was held at Blair House, late Sunday, in Pashto.
Video

Video California Science Center Tells Story of Dead Sea Scrolls

The ancient manuscripts were uncovered in the mid-20th century, and they are still yielding clues about life and religious beliefs in ancient Israel. As VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports, an exhibit in Los Angeles shows how modern science is bringing the history of these ancient documents to life.
Video

Video Angelina Jolie Takes Another Bold Step

Hollywood actress and filmmaker Angelina Jolie has revealed she had her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed to lower her odds of getting cancer. Doctors say the huge publicity over her decision will help raise awareness about the importance of cancer screening. VOA’s George Putic has more

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More