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Fitness training and events help increase HIV prevention awareness in Kenya

May 2, 2009
It’s a unique angle being used to reach youth. And it is working.

Staff with MHRP’s prevention, care and treatment program in Kericho—called the Walter Reed Project—have developed a number of creative ways to teach the community about HIV prevention, especially with young people. In Kenya, where 7% of the population is HIV positive and only one out of three know their status (2007 Kenya AIDS Indicator Survey), educating youth about the HIV/AIDS epidemic, and the resources available to help them, is crucial to reducing their vulnerability to the virus.

Paul Mwangale, winner of the New England Fitness Atlantic Bodybuilding contest, is a member of the WRP-K staff who helps provide counseling/testing and raises HIV awareness in the Kericho district. One project Mwangale is involved with integrates the promotion of voluntary testing and counseling (VCT) with a four-week weight-training program.

It’s a unique angle being used to reach youth. And it is working. The weight-training students participate an hour and a half daily, six days per week for a four-week period. Mwangale spends the first 45 minutes teaching the youth about weight lifting. The second 45 minutes are dedicated to HIV prevention. Students are given a test on HIV prevention on the first and last day. After two months, 77 youth completed the program, with 95% showing improvement on their test scores upon completing the class.

Two other athletic events are also used by WRP-K to engage the community in HIV prevention. The first is World AIDS Vaccine Awareness Day in May. During this event, a 10k run brings local runners from Kericho and the community together. Here, Kenyan international marathon runners speak about the importance of HIV vaccine research and VCT. The second event occurs on World AIDS Day in December. During this event, the “Mr. Kericho” bodybuilding contest encourages Kenyans to live as healthy athletes and get VCT. During “Mr. Kericho” 430 people participated in VCT, including both competitors and community members.

These prevention, care and treatment efforts are funded by the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR).