National Aids Control Council (NACC) in partnership with departments of health of Tana River, Lamu, and Garissa Counties has kicked off sensitisation forums on HIV/AIDs targeting youths in the boda boda sector.
“This is a multi-sectoral approach; we are primarily focusing on the young people in the boda boda sector because of their vulnerability to HIV/AIDS,’’ said Wario Boru, NACC coordinator for Lamu, Garissa, and Tana River in Hola.
The forums aim to sensitise the boda boda riders and other stakeholders working closely with them like the police, business community, civil society, and health workers.
Wario noted that boda boda is an organised sector which is the reason NACC is focusing on them.
In the next two days, they will visit boda boda sheds to conduct voluntary HIV testing and counseling.
“We will distribute self-test kits for those who would want to test at the comfort of their homes and distribute other preventive options like condoms to the riders, ” he added.
Wario is worried about the number of new infections among the youths saying it is a ticking time bomb even though generally in Tana HIV cases are low.
He elucidated that 42 percent of new infections are in adolescents and young people between 15-24 years and that is why the age group is very important.
“Tana River has one percent in terms of HIV prevalence. The number may be low but we are concerned about new HIV infections, especially among the youths. In Kenya, also in the Tana River, new infections are high,’’ said Wario.
The more than 50 boda boda riders who are attending the forum at a Hola hotel expressed their appreciation to NACC for the programme which has enlightened them on HIV/AIDS.
Dhadho Steven, a boda boda operator said, “I am elated for this training opportunity; I will learn how HIV/AIDs is transmitted and how to protect myself. We have never had an opportunity to be informed.’’
He further added that the sector has its challenges and they are at risk of contracting HIV due to interaction with many people saying temptations are there where sex is used in the exchange for fare.
Another rider, Adan Salat, says he has been testing once a year but now he is enlightened and will teach fellow boda boda riders from the knowledge he will gain from the forum.
By Sadik Hassan