The Imani Project facilitates an HIV/AIDS Support Group which is open to all people living in the villages who have HIV/AIDS.
As is often the case, there is stigma that comes with a diagnosis of HIV/AIDS, particularly in the small communities that make up the rural villages. But as the group has grown over the years, more people are now open about their HIV status. This, coupled with other HIV education programs, has lessened the stigma and the fear surrounding HIV, and has opened the door to conversations about both prevention and about living with HIV. It has also decreased the rate of HIV infection in the villages.
Those who participate in the support group receive extra goods and services, such as group facilitation and education, condoms, extra maize flour and garden seeds, basic medical supplies, and supplies for cleaning up spills safely. The Imani Project also provides funding for transportation to and from the hospital in Malindi, the nearest town, where people must go each month to receive their HIV medications.
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The support group meets monthly at a church in Misufini village. Men and women travel from various villages to attend. In some cases, people who are not yet diagnosed come to the meetings where we administer an AIDS saliva test.
Group members have the chance to talk about their experiences during the month and offer encouragement to others. Francis Kahindi Mwaduna, director of the Kenyan Imani Project, often attends and addresses the group to remind them of the importance of taking care of themselves to stay healthy.
After the goods are distributed, the meeting ends with everyone getting bread and a cup of hot tea. We only have seven or eight cups, so the volunteers serve a few people, wash the cups, and then serve some more.