Friday, August 21, 2009

Back in Isiolo

Photo: Isiolo Youth Against Aids and Poverty (IYAP), setting up camp to provide mobile voluntary HIV counselling and testing (VCT) services in Isiolo town centre.

The trip to Isiolo is, in itself, a culture shock. The bus is always a buzz of conversation and loud music and the roads could be the source of hundreds of road movie anecdotes. I know the 14 seater minibuses here, called matatus, have a reputation for taking risks. But I saw one that had "14 Gamblers" painted on the door, instead of "14 Passengers". Aki Kaurismaki really should make a movie here.

Anyhow, the town of Isiolo no less disappointing. It was still hot, thought the sun was going down, and a constant, gusty wind drove up mini dust devils and covered everything in a thick, gritty film. But I was there to see IYAP, the Isiolo Youth Against Aids and Poverty, who were running a mobile voluntary HIV counselling and testing (VCT) clinic in the town centre.

Mobile clinics have been very successful, compared to the static clinics, which most people seem to avoid. It costs more money and requires more work to go out and set up a camp where people can visit for VCT services. But it is worth it and the IYAP team can test 60 or 70 people in a day. And they are not confined to the town, they can also visit distant villages and rural settlements.

A short while ago, IYAP was also able to do what they call "moonlight testing", whereby they go out at night and set up camp. Many people who are reluctant to go during the day seem happy to turn up for the moonlight sessions. Many of them are people who work at night or who are out at the pubs and clubs.

However, there have been terrible food and water shortages in and around Isiolo and many other parts of Kenya. This has had a knock on effect on security and has resulted in tribal clashes. Many people have been injured and some have been killed, farms have been damaged, stock has been stolen and destroyed. Hopefully, government efforts to reduce food insecurity and civil disturbances will alleviate things soon.

IYAP have many plans for the future, which they will be writing about in their forthcoming blog. I'll post up some further details about my visit here in the next few days and also, the URL for the new IYAP blog.


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