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A holistic Family-based care for HIV Infected and affected in Riruta-Quarterly Report on HIV/AIDS by Riruta United Women Empower

The family relation as an institution lies at the foundation of all human society. Ethics leave nothing wanting of the main elements of that institution. The family has always been the primary place of nurture and growth. Children are not products of school systems or congregations of any sort, but God's gifts to families. For this reason, there must be a kind of unity and harmony that reflect tender loving care in the family. Families fundamentally represent a microsmic demonstration of the much desired love and care needed in a world faced with HIV/AIDS pandemic.

A part from various socio-economic and political tasks many families face in Africa and especially in Kenya, HIV/AIDS has acquired a history of its own in family relationships.

Family based care is the holistic care given to the sick and affected in their family units. Sometimes this care is extended from hospital or health centers through paid community involvement. Often, this kind of collaborative effort between hospital and family excludes spiritual components and the felt needs of the family.

Some of the identified tasks facing families living with HIV/AIDS revolve around nursing care, counseling, social and spiritual support and anxiety for what must happen to children in case of death of parents. We cannot rule out the importance of clinical management, which includes early diagnosis, rational treatment, and planning for follow up care for HIV- related illness.

The fact is that there are many families who are socially and culturally land-locked to trek to the clinics. These are families plagued with the fear of social and cultural judgment and the stigmatization associated with HIV/AIDS.

Nursing care includes care given to promote and maintain good health, hygiene, good nutrition, and comfort to ensure a cheerful life despite the HIV/AIDS illness. It is common knowledge that AIDS is a syndrome of the causative virus-HIV, which destroys a subgroup of lymphocytes, resulting in suppression of the body's immune response. RUWEPO guarantees to source and supply health care products such as supplements, detoxifiers and immune boasters to indentified families copying with HIV/AIDS pandemic.

Once any member of a family is known to have contracted HIV/AIDS, stress and anxiety like a flood descends on that particular family unity. The over all psychological and social make up of the infected person tends to completely collapse. In Africa, the success of the individual member of a family is corporately celebrated and the functional failure of one member equally affects the wellness of the entire family unit. The diagnosis of a man, woman or child of any age with HIV/AIDS is like death news for the family. In a situation such as this, stress and anxiety sets in Therefore the promotion of positive attitude is needed to help the affected family and in particular the infected person make informed decisions and plans for the future.

Pastoral counseling experts, who are very few targets the family power in dealing with HIV/AIDS crisis in the family. Family powers are often based on economic, social and political resources and processed through influence and persuasion in the community. Prolonged HIV/AIDS illness in the life of any member of the family tends to run down this family power. As a result, the infected person is seen as a culprit and a source of misfortune in any defined family.

As a matter of fact, social and cultural discrimination and stigmatization of the HIV/AIDS infected person begins in the family. But a long with the counseling care comes social concern especially for the orphans/vulnerable children and widows. The church has a big challenge of sourcing for resources for these vulnerable groups since the figures are ever increasing on a daily basis.

Economic and Social impact of HIV/AIDS pandemic and strategies to address it at the family level has remained an area of concern for stakeholders. Riruta United Women Empowerment Programme believes that one of the best ways to address HIV/AIDS in families is to invest in sustainable social and economic development. In most cases, families are referred to legal practitioners for advice regarding the death of any member of the HIV/AIDS family. Where RUWEPO runs short of material resources, surviving family members would be informed and directed to where feasible provision of material assistance can be sourced.

Riruta United Women Empowerment Programme strategic action plan endeavors to integrate human rights policies to stop the stigmatization and discrimination against individuals in families living with HIV/AIDS. Our research finding is that in rural areas, social, economic and political rights of those infected or affected by HIV/AIDS especially widows and orphans are flagrantly violated because of outdated community traditions such as wife inheritance and sexual cleansing.

The RUWEPO radical response to this issue is to ensure that families infected or affected by HIV/AIDS get social and economic justice in the community and in their working places. RUWEPO has to some extend achieved this objective through empowering family units to realize the essence of life with or without HIV/AIDS. It is common knowledge that in Kenya undefined policies limiting effective access to education by children living with HIV/AIDS still remain an obstacle. Media reports highlighted a number of cases in which children living with HIV/AIDS from Nyumbani Children's Home and other charitable homes were denied admission into primary schools.

While access to medication is of vital importance and a fundamental element for achieving a relatively standard of physical health, the need to develop partnership between the family system and health providers is indispensable. This will go a long way to enhance the mobilization of families for empowerment and skill building for sustenance and positive living.

RUWEPO is committed to implementing a family focused intervention as a means of empowering and strengthening the resources of families living with HIV/AIDS to better cope with the pandemic.

Our HIV/AIDS program in its family-based programme seeks to reduce the spread of HIV/AIDS among vulnerable groups and communities at a very high risk of contracting the disease. Target groups include slum dwellers, rural dwellers, youth of all ages, street dwellers and boarder towns in Eastern Africa.

From time to time organize HIV/AIDS awareness seminars and workshops for populations at risk. The church can initiate and help to teach families and individuals the need and importance of the voluntary counseling and testing (VCT) services by emphasizing the danger of living without the proper information regarding one's general state of health, and or HIV-status. However, most church ministers avoid talking about HIV/AIDS because of ignorance and cultural orientation.

Our HIV/AIDS program advocates and conducts pre and post therapeutic counseling for youths, individuals and families in distress due to HIV/AIDS infections. But more needs to be done on establishing VCT centers and facilitation of personnel.

We attempt to work for the improvement of the socio-economic abilities of families living with HIV and AIDS. We seek to identify available resources and the felt-needs of individuals and families living with HIV/AIDS and then embark on the execution of planned family based care programs and support activities.

We give care to the sick and affected in their own family units. This care is extended through training for family caregivers especially healthy and able members of families living with HIV/AIDS, organizing self-support for families living with HIV/AIDS by encouraging frequent meetings for fellowship for the purpose of sharing experiences to encourage positive living habits and conducting frequent home visits in order to elicit residual physical, psychosocial and spiritual needs of individuals in families living with HIV/AIDS.

In view of the fact that many HIV/AIDS families are socially subjected to emotional trauma leading to marginalization in the community, intervention to protect the social-cultural, economic and political rights of families living with HIV/AIDS is of paramount importance. By the way of intervention, The organization’s HIV/AIDS program has embarked on organizing from time to time human rights awareness seminars and workshops in the local communities for families living or affected with HIV/AIDS.

HIV/AIDS families in the rural areas daily experience shame and guilt in response to family members who are known to be HIV-positive. This is because most rural communities still interpret HIV/AIDS as a curse and an emblem of misfortune.

HIV/AIDS families in rural areas are stigmatized and discriminated against. As a result there is a lot of secrecy surrounding the pandemic as infected families completely or partially conceal their HIV status and some on a revenge mission heartlessly continue infecting others.

The government of Kenya under President Mwai Kibaki has demonstrated a strong will in the battle against HIV/AIDS in the country. The formation of a cabinet committee on HIV/AIDS for policy making and implementation reassures many stakeholders that the leadership of the country at the highest level supports the fight against the HIV/AIDS pandemic in the country.

It is encouraging to notice that a substantial number of HIV/AIDS families are now defying negative public opinions to declare and talk about their HIV status in almost every public gathering. But still the church should seriously address the issue of stigma using a biblical perspective.

The opportunity to partner with faith based organizations can be exploited considering the fact that almost all religions in the country are coming out of their orthodox and non-partisan attitude to join in the fight against the spread of HIV in the community.

Apart from HIV/Aids the organization also addresses other issues namely: Education for orphans and vulnerable children, Malaria, Education on Sexual Orientation, Substance & Drug Abuse and Gender based sexual violence.

Thank you.
Anne Khadudu Baraza

Check us out on face book at rirutaumc_women or ruwepo2008

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