Background Kenya's National HIV/AIDS Strategic Plan deems youth, 14–24, most-at-risk. Risk is elevated in slums where poverty is prevalent and access to condoms and health education is limited. Peer health educators who come from the community and speak the same language are able to engage trust and confidence of the target population. In 2010 a unique partnership was formed, between youth, AIDS service organizations (ASO), and Goal Kenya, with the objective of increasing HIV education among youth in Nairobi. One outcome from this partnership was the creation of a youth friendly centre.
Methods Peer educators created a safe space within the slum, Lunga Lunga Youth Centre, where youth are invited to “hang-out”, engage in off street activities (computer games, theatre, music etc), and receive health education and services. Information on HIV/STI prevention is shared and youth are taught to make informed decisions related to sexual activity and are encouraged to test for HIV /STI at the adjoining clinic.
Results In the first four months of the project 2424 youths, 40% female and 60% male used the centre. 933 youth received health counselling, 98.6% male and 1.4% female. The youth friendly space allowed for a safe and open environment for youth to receive and discuss HIV/STI information as well as access testing and health services. Using non-literature based activities increased HIV/STI knowledge and prevention methods were learnt, barriers to education such as illiteracy were circumvented.
Conclusion Given the overwhelming positive response to the youth specific space more youth friendly spaces in other parts of the slum should be made available, and ASO and youth partner organizations should be supported to enhance services. There needs to be more emphasis on engaging young women in health counselling programs.
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