By Francis Vue - Oasis Health Centre, Kilifi
According to the Kilifi County HIV AIDS Strategic Plan, the county is classified as medium HIV county. With an estimated population of 1.3 million people, approximately 22,606 persons were living with HIV by 2015, according to the National HIV County Estimates.
The county HIV prevalence during the same period was 4.4 per cent, slightly lower than the national prevalence of 5.6 per cent.
The rate of poverty in Kilifi County is very high. According to Kenya National Bureau of Statistics Kilifi County is ranked number 34/47 counties from the richest to poorest ranking.
It is against this backdrop that Oasis Medical Center exists and serves.
A high number of clients who visit the facility are living with HIV/AIDS. In the rural areas of Kilifi County the level of stigma is high compared to those living in other urban areas.
Oasis has used a multi-pronged approach to ensure that most comprehensive care clients’ adhere to their medication, which has resulted in improved quality of life for the PLWHIV.
However, the staff at Oasis Comprehensive Care Clinic noted that roughly 60 per cent of people living with HIV/AIDS were not financially, socially, emotionally and economically stable which led to poor adherence to their medication.
One of the major ways to ensure that adherence was observed and maintained was the formation of a social support group.
The group was started in 2008 with less than ten (10) members. During that time, the home-based care team visited the clients in their homes. The purpose of the visits was to support the clients spiritually, emotionally, socially, and economically and to empower their care givers with health talks on issues including transmission and prevention of HIV/AIDS. They also encouraged the clients to join the social support group for their own benefit.
Gradually, the membership increased from 10 to 30 members, both male and female. The group was supported by two clinical officers, three home based care workers, two social workers and one psychological counselor. The group was empowered with knowledge concerning HIV management. Once in a while, with the group’s consent, comprehensive care staff would invite a spiritual elder to support the members.
The group offered emotional support to the patients by offering space and allowing them to share their experiences in living with HIV. These forums were vital as they lifted the clients’ self-esteem. The psychological counselor also came in handy to assist them to accept their situation and carry on with their lives.
Further, the group also offered social support. This was done mostly by the home-based care team. They encouraged the social group members to share their social life before and after knowing their HIV status. With the support from the staff the group members would come around to viewing life positively. The clients were taught that being HIV positive did not mark the end of life. They could go on with their lives if they adopted positive living which includes adherence to ART, nutrition, and sexual behavior.
The social support group also strove to offer economic support to its members. As earlier noted, many of the clients were unable to make ends meet. However, this proved challenging as Oasis was not in a position to support the group with their income generating activity.
Income generating activities
However, with the aid of CHAK through the CHAK-OSI Human Rights for PLWHAs project, the group was given a grant of Ksh75,000. Economic empowerment is one of the key pillars of the CHAK HIV and human rights project.
The group started income generating activities in 2013, making soap, tie and dye clothes and detergents. These activities have helped them grow economically. About 80 per cent of the support group members have gradually improved their living standards. The group also does table banking.
Through the group projects, the members started their own small business at their homes. The grant funds were well spent enabling the activation of the group’s bank account.
Through their income generating activity the group organizes a get together party every end of the year, were the comprehensive care staff are invited. It is also during this meeting that the group divides half of the interest among themselves for their Christmas vacation.
Unfortunately, over time few members have passed on due to complications arising from HIV& AIDS and a few others have relocated to other areas. The remaining group members are fully involved in the income generating activities (IGA) and are doing well up to date with a good adherence to medication and self-reliant. It is important to note that during the social group meetings, there are no HIV/AIDS issues that are discussed. Instead, members solely focus on the business that they are engaged in.
Income generating activities have also been carried out in other project sites including Friends Lugulu Mission Hospital (pig rearing), AIC Kapsowar Hospital (table banking), PCEA Tumutumu Hospital (dairy goat rearing), among others.