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Take A Warning From Africa, Says Aid Worker

Take a warning from Africa, says aid worker

Dr Christopher Kenyi, programmes director for World Vision Tanzania, says New Zealand should beware of what has happened in Africa with HIV/AIDS, especially in the light of new figures just released showing a jump in HIV cases in New Zealand this year.

"It's interesting that in New Zealand you also have a rise in sexually transmitted diseases, which is how we track the incidence of HIV/AIDS in Africa," says Dr Kenyi, who is visiting New Zealand this week.

"And what we are finding really alarming is that awareness of the dangers of HIV/AIDS does not equal change in preventive measures. Awareness is now up to 80 percent in some areas, but there's no correlation between awareness and safe sexual practice in these areas.

"We need to really think how we can move people from knowledge about how this disease is spread to applying that knowledge. That's still a huge challenge."

Where he finds most success is in communities where the AIDS workers and counsellors are themselves HIV positive.

"Those with HIV/AIDS who are now volunteers, in my view, tend to be the most effective educators in peer support and in counselling...because people listen to personal experience, and it's very powerful to hear someone say how they caught the disease. We have one woman who has lived with HIV/AIDS for ten years, and she is in charge of our voluntary counselling and testing centre. What she says is very powerful for those living with the disease, and it takes away some of the stigma that surrounds AIDS."

HIV/AIDS is a big component of Dr Kenyi's work in Tanzania. A quarter of the aid and development budget for World Vision Tanzania is going to HIV/AIDS. But even though it's a huge problem, he says it's still important to balance various demands.

"It's a challenge for development. Agriculture is still the backbone of the rural economy, and the main thing is to get communities self-sufficient, and then they'll have food security, health care, education, and all those other things that go along with economic well being. Malaria is still killing more people than HIV/AIDS, especially children, and we need to balance our priorities."

On the positive side, he is seeing some improvement in Tanzania.

In Kagera, on the Uganda border, there are two HIV/AIDS projects, both funded by New Zealanders through 40 Hour Famine and relief funds. World Vision has made significant inroads into the HIV challenge.

One of the projects, Seeds for Kagera, a Famine-funded project, supplies seeds for children to plant at school, and also gives them a hot meal at school. These are children who are orphaned because of AIDS and who were dropping out of school prior to this project, because they had to work all day in the fields to grow food.

"This way, they can grow food at school, learn how to cook it, and have a meal as well. And with funding from New Zealand, we're looking at distributing high protein maize, which we've developed at World Vision's research centre in Tanzania."

Another project is the women's initiative called Hope to Orphans, which is a community project involving leaders who work as educational volunteers, teaching people about the dangers of HIV/AIDS, unprotected sex, and the importance of faithfulness in marriage. The use of condoms is also encouraged.

"Even for those who have contracted the virus, with proper understanding, their lives can be prolonged - with proper care and good nutrition, and they can remain productive members of their families and the community for some time," Dr Kenyi says.


PhD, MEd, B.A (Hons)

Dr. Christopher Kenyi is a South Sudanese national, and is currently the Programs Director of World Vision Tanzania. He has over twenty-three years of working in various universities as a Lecturer, Manager, NGO Management Trainer and a consultant in various capacities in Uganda, Sudan, Kenya, Tanzania, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Botswana, Mozambique and Zambia. Dr. Kenyi has practical competencies in Curriculum Development (especially for adult learning programs), Management of NGO programs, Participatory Development approaches, Program Design, Organizational Development, pre-planning assessments, program reviews and evaluations.

Dr. Kenyi holds a PhD in Adult Education & Rural Development (Southampton University in UK.), a Master of Education in Adult Education & Community Development (Manchester, UK), Bachelor of Arts with Honors in Social Work and Social administration (Makerere, Kampala) and a Certificate in NGO Management. Before joining WVT, Dr. Kenyi has taught Social Work Methods, Community Development, Development Studies, Management and Organizational Development in three African Universities and two tertiary institutions.

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