Healing the Heart and Mind

For the countries that have been hit the hardest,  AIDS presents much more than just a series of medical challenges. The human impact too has been profound. A person can’t successfully manage living with HIV and AIDS while living in the midst of trauma.

Mutual support groups for people living with HIV and AIDS help people to adjust to the realities and challenges of living with the virus and develop a new orientation toward life: “positive living.”

One of the important gaps that community-based organizations are filling in the overall HIV and AIDS response is in the area of psychosocial support. They can see that for some of the most pressing problems – such as keeping children on treatment, or preventing new infections among girls and young women – psychosocial interventions are absolutely essential.

Kiambu People Living with HIV/AIDS (KIPEWA), Kenya, shares their assessment of the current situation:

Since ARV medication was introduced in Kenya, efforts have been made to improving access to these drugs. Psychosocial support activities, however, have been given less attention, which, in our opinion, is contributing to the rise of HIV stigma again and a lot of treatment default. KIPEWA, Kenya, strategized on strengthening psychosocial support to ensure that clients are encouraged to adhere to medication, as well as receiving much needed support for the many emotional and psychological challenges they are facing. In our view, if we can win the battle of the mind, we can win the HIV war!

In December 2020, Kiambu People Living with HIV/AIDS (Kipewa), in Kenya, held a new kind of “beauty pageant” for people living with HIV, called “I Am Not My Diagnosis.” The pageant celebrated the “beauty of overcoming obstacles” and honoured participants for their courage as role models for positive living. Organizations like KIPEWA, run by and for their communities, have the greatest impact in the response to HIV and AIDS, especially in the face of Covid-19. They have the expertise, insight, and established networks of care and trust required to restore hope, resilience and well-being.

It can be very helpful just getting to talk with other people who are in the same situation – a problem shared is a problem half solved!  Our clients tell us that they:

  • are feeling less lonely, isolated and judged
  • are no longer so distressed, depressed, anxious or fatigued
  • are better adjusted to their situation
  • have a clearer understanding about what they’re facing
  • have better coping skills
  • are starting to get a sense of their own power and control again

Most of the Foundation’s partners have multi-dimensional programmes (providing a wide range of services from medical care, to income generation, to improving children’s education, to address violence against women), and psychosocial support is woven into all of this work through the use of mutual support groups. There are over 1,000 members in KIPEWA’s groups in Kenya.