In Kenya, many people will talk about the importance of knowing their status. This of course refers to whether or not they are HIV positive or negative. Unlike in America, Kenyans can’t just walk into a medical clinic and ask for a blood test. There just are not enough clinics or hospitals and the staff at those facilities is totally overwhelmed with sick patients.
Instead there are clinics set up just to deal with the AIDS crisis. One such place is the “VCT”, which stands for Volunteer Counseling and Testing. At these clinics, not only can a person have their HIV status checked, they also get necessary counseling based on those results.
There is a lot of stigma attached to being HIV positive or having AIDS. When AIDS first burst on the scene in the late 1980’s, people panicked and saw AIDS as the disease that would end mankind, or at least eradicate those individuals who lived a certain lifestyle (and you know what I’m talking about and I’m not going to go there). In America, in the twentieth century, a lot of that fear is gone.
In many parts of the world since there are treatments available, AIDS, though still a serious disease, isn’t the death sentence it used to be. In third world countries, however, that is not yet the case. Without access to proper education, AIDS continues to spread.
At the Ngong VCT we visited our first day in Kenya, we toured the tiny cramped rooms where the testing was done and where counseling took place. I wish I could say that I remembered it all, but all that my mind retains are the interesting posters on the walls, pictures of friendly condoms with smiling faces. The most interesting part is that when I was in Peru on another volunteer trip in 2009, they had almost the same condom posters on the walls of their clinic.