Project takes HIV testing to homes
Mary, an 18-year-old college girl in Kenya, was at home with her younger brother finishing her morning chores when a community health worker and an HIV counselor came to visit.
The health worker introduced the counselor and told Mary they were moving door-to-door in the village, encouraging people to test for HIV. The two visitors explained the procedure and the benefits of knowing one’s HIV status.
“I accepted to be tested but my brother ran away,” says Mary. “I, too, used to be afraid of testing for HIV because I thought one could accidentally get infected by the needles they use, but the counselor explained the process to me and I realized that this is not the case.”
Mary was the first to benefit from this home-to-home HIV-testing campaign conducted by APHIAplus Nuru ya Bonde, an FHI 360-led program in Kenya’s Rift Valley Province.
In Mary’s neighborhood of Bondeni, in Nakuru Central District, home testing was done by eight trained counselors, who were paired with community health workers already working in the community. The campaign lasted one month.
“We decided to first cover one of 12 villages in Bondeni, evaluate the exercise and apply the lessons to expand home testing to the rest,” says Caleb Osano, the APHIAplus technical officer in charge of HIV testing and counseling. “After a second evaluation, we will scale up.”
Before the campaign, says Caleb, the team prepared health facilities to receive people referred for care and sensitized the community.
In Bondeni, 36 people were found to have HIV and were referred for care and support at the local health facility. They will be linked to support groups and other forms of support, including health education and economic empowerment programs.
The majority who tested HIV-negative — including Mary — were linked to prevention programs. Young people are referred to a youth resource center run by an APHIAplus Nuru ya Bonde partner, where they receive information and develop skills to protect themselves from HIV and other risks.
Building on the lessons learned in Bondeni, home-based HIV counseling and testing was extended to cover the whole of Nakuru and other districts.
By September 2012, more than 10,000 people in five districts had been tested for HIV and referred to prevention, care and support services. In addition to HIV tests, the home visits provide an opportunity for counselors and community health workers to advise members of households on general health matters. In some cases, deworming medicines and tablets used to purify drinking water were also provided.
“This approach has been particularly successful in reaching women, men and children in nomadic populations in Kajiado, Laikipia and Narok,” says Caleb. “Many of these people would never have known their HIV status, because they had no access to voluntary counseling and testing services and are far removed from health centers.”
APHIAplus Nuru ya Bonde is funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development.
Photo credits: George N. Obanyi, FHI 360