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#WhatWomenWant

HIV VULNERABILITY AMONG ADOLESCENT GIRLS AND YOUNG WOMEN IN HOMA BAY COUNTY, KENYA

By Belianne
Onyango

I am a young woman from Homa Bay county in Kenya, and a
social worker professionally. I am also very passionate about fellow young women and
adolescents, especially their well-being and health. Previously, I volunteered with
Women Fighting AIDs in Kenya (WOFAK) to enlighten fellow young women on issues
around HIV and sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR). Currently, I also partner
with the ATHENA Initiative, previously as an ambassador in the LEARN project and
currently as a champion in the #WhatGirlsWant project. Through this, I am serving my community by
providing community outreaches on issues of SRHR, HIV prevention, PrEP,
elimination of violence against women, menstrual health and other topics
impacting the health and rights of adolescent girls and young women (AGYW) in
Homa Bay county, Kenya.

According to national
statistics in Kenya, my county Homa Bay is still the leading county in HIV prevalence in
Kenya, with the most affected being young people, including Adolescent girls and young women(AGYW).  This made
me more curious to know why  AGYW are most negatively affected by issues
pertaining to health whenever a survey is carried out.

As I was probing a few young women and adolescent girls to
know more about why it’s always the AGYW with the highest HIV prevalence rate,
a number of factors were identified as contributing to this problem, which
included:

Gender
based violence
at a household level, it is often that the heads of the family are men. In many occasions in rural homes, it is the men who are breadwinners
and who make the final decision on what is to happen in the homes.
This tends to place women in an inferior position. Often, girls born out of
wedlock or orphans are being violated sexually by the people taking care of
them. These girls do not have power of proposing to someone they call a father
or guardian to go for HIV test first or use protection but the end results can
be predicted.

Life
style.
  Adolescent girls and young women have sexual relations with older men( transactional sex). This is mainly for the men to provide
them with things they may wish to have in their life without considering their
HIV status.

Lack of
parental support.
Parents have failed to discuss issues around sexuality with
their daughters. This has made AGYW rely on the information they get from their
peers who at times not experienced enough to advise or guide on issues around
health. This can lead to them being misinformation and lack of accurate information

In order to solve these issues driving high HIV prevalence
rates, girls’ empowerment is still needed at grass root level so that they can
be able to condemn and speak out for themselves. AGYW need to have access to
support whenever someone is trying to harass them sexually or trying to violate
their rights in a manner that may make them contact HIV.  AGYW should not only  have a number of options in HIV prevention, but
also know about each one of them so that should they have a challenge in using
or maintaining one, they  can go for another
option they feel comfortable using e.g. condom use, PrEP(Pre Exposure prophylaxis) or Daprivirine ring. Some
AGYW engage in sexual intercourse willingly but they can’t choose from what they
don’t know or have never heard about. Finally, parents should always be open
with their daughters and give proper advice as far as HIV is concerned to
reduce new HIV infections in the region.