In July 2007 Advantage Africa’s local partner organisation, Rescue Team for HIV & AIDS started providing VCT services to the local population and since then they have tested over two thousand people. This is a significant achievement given that people are usually reluctant to be tested because of the stigma and fear that is still associated with AIDS in most parts of East Africa.
Kibwezi district has an HIV prevalence of over 10%, much higher than the national average of 6.3%. Unfortunately the provision of government testing and therapy services is completely inadequate. Rescue Team, with support from Advantage Africa, run an approved and registered programme which offers local people a free, trusted and high quality counselling and testing service, situated in their own community. Rescue Team also conduct counselling and testing when they organise large community awareness events and they also undertake outreach testing services. These provide services in more remote locations and for groups which are hard to reach such as sex workers on the main Nairobi to Mombasa highway which passes near Kibwezi town.
People who are found to be HIV positive are directly supported through Rescue Team’s other prevention and care projects and they are counselled to protect others from contracting HIV. Special support is given to the most vulnerable clients including children, pregnant women and people with disabilities. Those who test negative are also counselled in how to stay safe and they are encouraged to reduce risky behaviour and to become advocates of safe practices amongst their friends and family.
The counselling and testing of children, women and men is a difficult undertaking which can sometimes put extreme emotional demands on the counsellors themselves. For this reason the Rescue Team counsellors attend regional monthly supervision meetings where they can discuss difficult issues and get support from supervisors and other counsellors in the district.
Rescue Team is also a member of the Kenya AIDS NGOs Consortium (KANCO).