- take appropriate steps to protect themselves and others from infection or repeated exposure to infection (for those who have sero-converted);
- seek early treatment for opportunistic infections for themselves and their sick children;
- make appropriate decisions about reproductive roles after HIV/AIDS infection; and
- access good nutrition and engage in other activities that help prolong and improve the quality of their lives.
WOFAK began by training 35 female community leaders to educate citizens (including youth groups) about HIV/AIDS. It also trains women to offer home-based care for those with HIV/AIDS and to train other women as caregivers, and to counsel people with HIV/AIDS. In addition to individual counseling, WOFAK also offers a support group that brings women living with HIV/AIDS together to share their experiences (including their fear and grief) and to offer mutual support. WOFAK provides psychosocial support for infected and affected children.
As a pressure group, WOFAK aims to decipher the specific needs of women living with HIV/AIDS, and then works to advocate for these women's right to have those needs met.A drop-in centre in Kayole serves women living with HIV/AIDS, and their dependents. Reproductive health services and alternative therapies for the relief of opportunistic infections are provided.
HIV/AIDS, Women, Youth, Children, Nutrition, Rights
Women in Kenya are particularly vulnerable to the effects of HIV/AIDS because:
- women are often the central caretakers of the family. Of HIV-positive pregnant women in Kenya, 30% give birth to HIV-positive babies who are likely to die before age five. These women often have other family members to care for, and are themselves impaired in that role as a result of illness.
- women are three times more likely to be infected with HIV through sexual intercourse than are men because the vaginal wall is prone to sores and abrasions. At the same time, African tradition dictates practises that increase the chances that women will be infected: polygamous marriage, wife inheritance, and adolescent sex are common.
- women contribute significantly to certain economic sectors in society. Ill women will have an adverse impact on education, health, and agriculture.
The women who formed WOFAK came together to support one another through the rejection, stigmatisation, and discrimination they experienced as a result of being affected or infected by HIV/AIDS. Many of these women were widows burdened with the task of supporting their families alone. WOFAK challenges the conventional image of women with AIDS as helpless victims by encouraging women to see themselves as survivors capable of taking control of their own lives and those of their children. Membership since 1993 has reached 350 women.
In 1996, a branch of WOFAK was opened in Homa Bay Western Kenya to respond to the needs of women with in that region. The lessons learned in that rural setting inspired a programme in urban Nairobi. Twenty more women have been trained in education, counselling, and home-based care since the initial training sessions. The existing drop-in centre in Kayole, which was established in 1995, was also expanded to meet more clinical needs of those in the area through medication and medical advice. Information gleaned from medical visits was used to develop a health protocol/training manual.
UNIASC, The Ford Foundation, ICCO Netherlands, CAFOD, and Global Fund for Women