By Madonah Syombua of Straight Talk and Alice Armstrong, WHO Senior project coordinator.
Venue: Embu Count
Straight Talk Foundation Kenya through Teen Plus Project, along with several partner organizations (such as USAID, Aphia Plus Kamili, NOPE, Embu PGH, Kenya Red Cross) organized and sponsored a festival, CATWALK4LIFE. The main goal of the festival was to help adolescents living with or affected by HIV/AIDS develop skills to fight stigma while increasing their self-esteem through creative expressions. Specifically, this festival aimed to: impart life skills to HIV+ adolescents; stimulate community response to the emerging challenges of HIV/AIDS on orphans and vulnerable children; and promote quality health care and encourage HIV+ adolescents to respond to developmental interventions. Additionally, everyone who was willing to get tested was able to do so at the venue with trained testing counselors.
The festival focused on HIV/AIDS awareness and prevention among 60 adolescents through spoken word, film, pageants, art, dance, theatre, music, and different workshops. Adolescents affected by or living with HIV/AIDS were able to express their feelings and experiences with HIV/AIDS, as well as exchange their unique reflections with their peers. CATWALK4LIFE, a HIV/AIDS awareness fashion show, gave HIV+ adolescents the opportunity to step on the catwalk to highlight the importance of raising awareness of the epidemic in Kenya. In order to win the title of Mr./Miss Positive, contestants had to deliver a compelling 3-minute HIV prevention message, a component of the pageant that accounted for 75% of their total score. The focus of the workshops, lead by professional tutors, centered on stigma, adherence, abstinence, self-esteem, effective communication skills, healthy choices, pregnancy prevention, and personal responsibilities. Videos, debates, role-play scenarios, poetry, and discussion groups were included to make the daylong workshop fun and educational.
By providing creative workshops for adolescents living with HIV, sponsors were able to offer training to equip them with vital information about their condition. Overall, the expectation of the festival was that more adolescents would feel more comfortable about disclosing their status and ensuring decreased stigma. The long-term objective of this festival is to make it a national event where adolescents from the county level will take part in the annual national art festival on HIV/AIDS. Education through interactive communication will help slow the spread, reverse the stigma, and end the discrimination surrounding HIV/AIDS.