Dr. Ruth Laibon-Masha has called on the youth to share experiences and identify gaps that will inform priority areas for prevention and better service delivery in HIV response.

National AIDS Control Council (NACC) Chief Executive Officer Dr. Ruth Laibon-Masha has urged Maisha Youth movement to use their potential and knowledge to influence positive health outcomes among their peers. Speaking while addressing a meeting of its leaders drawn from the 47 counties, Dr. Masha called on the youth to share experiences and identify gaps that will inform priority areas for prevention and better service delivery in HIV response. She noted that the potential of young people has not been fully harnessed in addressing health issues that affect them, including HIV and teen pregnancies.

Innovative ideas

“As a youth movement, you have a huge potential of shaping conversations that can influence attitude and behaviors and change the HIV narrative and other health related issues among your peers,” she said. While acknowledging the difficult working environment characterized by limited resources under which the youth movement has been operating, Dr. Masha promised to support youth-led innovative ideas that would contribute to the overall goal of ending AIDS and teen pregnancies in Kenya. She, however urged the youth to leverage on opportunities that are not resource intensive. “I am cognizant of the difficult fiscal environment you operate in. As much as the Council may support some of your innovative ideas geared towards addressing these issues, I also request that you implement non-costly interventions. For instance, you don’t require resources to share knowledge with your peers to ensure those who are HIV negative remain so, while at the same time ensuring that those living with HIV do lead a healthy and comfortable life. In a small way, you will have contributed to this whole conversation of ending AIDS,” she added.

Future leaders

She further reiterated her commitment to strengthening NACC’s working relationship with the youth movement to build their capacity in not only addressing health issues but also as a springboard to catalyze the growth of future leaders.

The National youth consultative forum brings together leaders of Maisha youth County chapters, an initiative of the National AIDS Control Council aimed at empowering the youth-led movement in addressing health-related issues including HIV, teen pregnancies, and gender-based violence affecting young people. The movement, which has been institutionalized across the counties, has been instrumental in sensitizing young people on health matters and inclusion of is pleased to collaborate with the youth agenda in health policy and decision-making processes.

Positive outcomes

The deliberate move to involve the budding youthful population which comprises 60 per cent of the country’s population is informed by disturbing statistics among this sub population. The Kenya HIV Estimates report of 2020 reveals that adolescents and young people account for almost half of total new infections. Of the country’s 32,017 new HIV incidences reported, 11,229 occurred among adolescents and young people aged 15 to 24. Similarly, 30 new HIV infections occur among this group daily in Kenya. Research has shown that young people are better placed to develop suitable youth-friendly interventions to enhance positive health outcomes.