Sunday, July 06, 2008

HIV Testing: Change in Strategy

For a few years now, ELI's Home-based Care Team (Tumaini na Afya) has been partnering with AMPATH in doing HIV/AIDS campaigns in our region. We host campaigns where people come to compete in running and cycling races, and AMPATH provides the HIV testing kits. Those who are willing to be tested know their status within 5 minutes, and can make changes in their lifestyle, either making sure they do not contract the virus, or making sure they don't spread it.

Last year, AMPATH suggested a change in methodology. Rather than asking clients to come to us to be tested, they'd go to them. (Sounds a lot like Jesus' way of reaching out!) In the safety of their homes, entire families can be tested. Couples can both know their status.

Once again, AMPATH chose to partner with ELI. Not only will we supply some of the VCT councelors, but ELI is responsible for promoting the concept of home-based testing.

ELI staff, praying before heading out to the event

So, yesterday we held a campaign that looked a lot like the ones we used to have. There was an evangelistic crusade the night before. There were football (soccer) play-offs, and on Saturday, winning teams competed for the coveted prize of new uniforms. Cyclists raced their hearts out for a new bicycle. Runners showed up from near and far to compete in the long-distance races for which the Kalenjin pe0ple of our area are famous around the world. (It's not unusual to have men or women in our races who have competed in/won races such as the Boston marathon, or the London or LA marathons!) There's also tug of war, relay races, and, for the first time yesterday, dance contests.

Throughout the day, the Salvation Army Band entertains the crowd, and when they take a break, ELI musicians take over. There's never a moment's silence all day, and the energy runs high! All through the day, clients from ELI's home-based care program share their testimonies over the PA system, telling others what a difference it made knowing their status.

Usually, we'd urge people to be tested at the event, and have had as many as 1,000 people tested on one day. Yesterday, the purpose was to tell people that yes, they should know their status, and yes, we'll come to their homes to test them. This way, in conjunction with AMPATH, we'd be able to test thousands more than we had done to date.

We are excited about the journey ahead and the doors it will open for us to bring Hope to those who are HIV+.

Dr. Mamlin, head of AMPATH, has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize for the second consecutive year for the work he's done through AMPATH in our region. We are honored to work with a group such as his.

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