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An oasis of hope for people affected by HIV in Mukuru

By Catherine Khamali, Kenya HIV Officer

Trócaire is supporting a health clinic assisting the HIV positive community in the Mukuru slum, Nairobi, Kenya. The clinic has helped more than 30,000 people in just 3 years.

The Mukuru slum is a winding maze of narrow alleyways and aluminium shacks. Located just 10 kilometres from the centre of Nairobi, Mukuru is a world away from the traffic jams of the Kenyan capital. Here, many of the mud tracks that run through the slum are too narrow for cars.

It is, however, a hive of activity. Market stalls fill every available space. The 600,000 people who live on this small piece of land bump shoulders and elbows as they go about their day. Amid the visible signs of poverty that strike you everywhere you look, the thing that really hits you is the complete lack of personal space or privacy.

Poverty has invisible signs, too. Over 1.6 million Kenyans are living with HIV. Many of them live here and in the other slum areas of the city.

This is the reason why the Medical Missionaries of Mary (MMM) decided to set up a clinic to assist the HIV positive community. Working as a professional team, staff and community workers provide services where clients are treated with dignity.

They meet, greet and screen all clinic visitors ensuring they are welcomed and supported through their visit, whether it is for HIV counselling and testing, TB testing, antenatal services, or growth monitoring for children under the age of five.

Trócaire has supported this project, helping to ensure that over a period of just three years more than 30,000 people accessed this service.

Community health workers are a backbone of the clinic and its outreach services.  These health workers run support groups for men and women living with HIV, and also go into the community to raise awareness of issues related to being HIV positive, especially for pregnant women.

Mukuru, Kenya

Mukuru, Kenya

Captions. Top:  Like many women in Kenya, Felistus tested positive for HIV when she was pregnant. The counselling Felistus received at the MMM clinic helped her accept her HIV status. When her daughter, Grace, was 18 months old she tested negative, she was free from HIV.

Bottom: Elizabeth found out she was living with HIV when she was pregnant with her son Wyclef. She was tested at the Trócaire supported Medical Missionaries of Mary (MMM) and received treatment to prevent transmission of HIV to her child.

The community workers also conduct regular talks in schools. This outreach work is of crucial importance in a country where stigma and discrimination continue to impede effective HIV responses. Between 2008 and 2011, 56 % of people living with HIV reported being verbally abused as a result of their HIV status.

However, great strides are being made in Kenya. The country has doubled its domestic HIV spending. Between 2008 and 2010, 23% of adult men in Kenya were tested for HIV, compared to only 8% in 2003. Approximately 61% of eligible children younger than 15 years old are receiving antiretroviral therapy, while 67% of women are benefitting from antiretroviral therapy to reduce HIV transmission during pregnancy.

In the middle of the extremely poor slum of Mukuru, where the communities have little food, no toilets or running water, no jobs, and where in the rainy season sewage flows freely, the Medical Missionaries of Mary provide an oasis of hope and health. 

Their bright buildings and the hospitality of staff makes this very special place for Mukuru people.

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