An investigation of faith based communication initiatives in response to HIV and AIDS in Kenya: a case study of Murang'a County
Mwangi, Mercy W
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A lot of efforts have been put in response to the HIV and AIDS pandemic since it was first reported in Kenya in mid-1980s. Faith-based organizations, although initially reluctant in being directly involved, have in the recent past joined the efforts in lowering of prevalence rates (Kamaara, 2008) Given the role of FBOs in society as socializing agents, the influence and authority they command, significant impact has been expected from their response. However, their efforts do not seem to have translated to the expected effect and impact in lowering the HIV and AIDS prevalence rates, (Nduati and Kiai, 1996; Kamaara, 2008). The objectives of this research therefore were to study the faith-based communication initiatives in response to HIV and AIDS and to assess their effectiveness; to identify gaps, challenges and opportunities in the faith-based response; to determine whether spirituality plays a significant role with an overall objective of reducing HIV and AIDS prevalence rate in Kenya. The research was based on Everett Rogers Diffusion of Innovation and the Social Cognitive Theory of Albert Bandura to examine why these interventions have not been effective. The researcher used interviews and questionnaires to collect data from two formal faithbased organizations, forty church leaders from Kiharu and Maragua constituencies, nineteen PL WHA, and forty-two people from the general public (Behavioral Change Communication target group) in Murang'a County. Data was also collected from six key informants from one United Nations Organisation, an International Faith-based Organization (MAP International), government representatives in Murang'a County and one organization that supports PL WHA. The researcher used both qualitative and quantitative methods of collecting data. In data analysis the Statistical Package for Social Scientists (SPSS) was used to obtain frequencies and percentages for quantitative data, while thematic and quick impression techniques were used for qualitative data analysis (Kombo and Tromp, 2006). The findings of this research have shown that while remarkable progress has been made in terms of contribution by faith-based organizations and churches internally and nationally, at the local level, there is still more ground to be covered. The current response by the churches in Murang'a County has been rated moderately satisfactory. Stigma and discrimination has persisted in the Christian community and lack of capacity both in terms of knowledge and institutional capacity amongst the FBOs and churches to deal with the HIV and AIDS pandemic is a challenge. It has specifically highlighted the need for the church to evaluate its current spiritual condition and look for ways of enhancing its comparative advantage. These findings are intended to generate new thinking in the Christian faith-based response to HIV and AIDS which when implemented is expected to bring greater effectiveness in lowering the prevalence rates.