Dancers get their groove on to fight HIV

Whether for ceremony or enjoyment, dance is one of the purest forms of self-expression and communication—so it’s no surprise that a recent dance initiative successfully reached Kenya’s youth with a message about HIV—its most vulnerable demographic.

Twenty-eight groups from the largest informal settlements in Nairobi came together in July for the first-ever “Dunda Yangu Base Yangu” Street Dance campaign, which was organized by the AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) Kenya and the National AIDS Control Council (NACC). Though a selection process, the initial group was later whittled down to six teams in the “My Dance My Base” [English translation] competition, which culminated in performances by the most talented participants.

“NACC is pleased to have been part of this great initiative targeting young people,” said NACC HIV Prevention Program Officer Joab Khasewa. “Through the street dance campaign, we were able to provide health messages along with testing and treatment services. Continued innovative action like this will ensure real youth engagement—the dance campaign was a great example of that.”

The project reached more than 3,500 young people at the events, with tens of thousands more receiving healthcare messages via social media campaigns and interviews at four local radio stations.

Youth engagement was key, because Kenya’s 15-24 year-olds comprised 51% of all new HIV infections in 2016 – almost 25,000 young people. Additionally, less than half of teenagers aged 15 to 19 get tested regularly (or at all), while 20 to 24 year-olds are tested at a rate of over 80%.

“AHF Kenya is proud to support an effort which saw partners come together to reduce new HIV infections among our younger citizens,” said AHF Africa Deputy Bureau Chief Dr. Wamae Maranga. “By engaging the youth directly through dance, a medium they can relate to, we can positively affect their future.”

In total, 365 people were tested for HIV—two tested positive and were immediately linked to care. Additionally, 155 young women were screened for cervical cancer and sexually transmitted infections. AHF has 39,877 registered patients in Kenya and has been working in the country since 2002.