The spouse to Turkana Governor Lilian Ekamias has officially opened the Shalom Youth Friendly Centre in Nabulon, Kanamkemer Ward.
The Centre, targeting the adolescent and young people (AYP) aged 10 to 24 years, was established in collaboration with The Global Fund, Kenya Red Cross Society and World Vision Kenya.
It is intended to be a safe place for youth to access educational and entertaining resources, but most importantly the provision of essential sexual and reproductive health services.
During her address, Ekamais urged adolescents to adopt preventive measures to minimize the risk of infection and early pregnancies.
She highlighted the centre’s significant role in granting AYP access to health services, educational materials and recreational activities to counter alcohol and substance abuse, teen pregnancies, and other challenges prevalent among this target group.
“This being a long holiday, I urge parents to actively engage in protecting and counselling their children,” she said.
She further encouraged all Turkana residents to utilize self-testing kits if visiting a health facility posed a challenge stressing the importance of knowing one’s HIV status.
“Positive cases will receive counselling and necessary medication,” she said.
The County Executive for Health and Sanitation, Dr Francis Mariao, lauded the centre’s approach to meet the social, psychological, and physical needs of the targeted group.
“The County Government will collaborate with partners to work closely to expand community-based initiatives to combat HIV transmission and other diseases,” he said.
Similarly, the County Executive for Education, Sports and Social Protection, Leah Audan, acknowledged the escalating HIV prevalence rate in Nabulon and expressed gratitude to partners for timely intervention, by establishing the youth-friendly centre.
“Some residents in Nabulon are struggling with alcohol and substance abuse, a leading factor contributing to incidences of gender-based violence,” she said.
The Chief Officer for Preventive and Promotive Health, Peter Lomorukai, recognized the strides made in HIV care but highlighted a new challenge.
“In 2022, 62 percent of new HIV infections in Turkana County were among adolescents and young people aged 10-24 years,” he said.
Assistant County Commissioner for Turkana Central Division, Andrew Mutuma, addressing the attendees reminded them of the ongoing 16 Days of Activism which is committed to ending all forms of GBV against women and girls.
He echoed the concerns of the past speakers about alcohol and substance abuse in Nabulon.
Mutuma vowed to crack down on illicit brewers and drug peddlers.
This centre aims to fight against the Triple Threat; an overlapping challenge of new HIV infections, pregnancies and SGBV among adolescents and young people.
Apart from accounting for 62 percent of the new HIV infections, the same age group also accounted for 17 percent of all antenatal care attendances and 36 percent of all sexual gender-based violence cases were aged 10-17 years.
Partners present were representatives from Amref Africa in Kenya, USAID Imarisha Jamii, Kenya Literature Bureau, International Rescue Committee, National Syndemic Diseases Control Council, AIC Health Ministries, SAPCONE and Save the Children.