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The HIV/AIDS epidemic in Kenya, East Africa has been reported to be fourth-largest in the world. In 1996, 10.5 percent of Kenya's people aged 15 to 49 were living with HIV. In the years since, the rate has declined to 5.6 percent—a significant drop that has been attributed to wider use of antiretroviral therapies and a decrease in new infections—but also to AIDS deaths. HIV continues to be everybody's reality in Kenya; there is no one who is not affected.

As Kenyan communities continue to wrestle with the challenges of HIV/AIDS, two ministries in Kenya's capital, Nairobi, are working together to make the lives of some HIV-positive men a little more tolerable. Lutheran Hour Ministries—Kenya, also known as Nuru Lutheran Media Ministry, sponsors a men's "post-test" support club that meets weekly at Springs of Life Lutheran Church in Nairobi's Kibera slum. Post-test support groups grew out of the LHM center's Voluntary Counseling and Testing (VCT) program; through the LHM-Kibera club, men dealing with the vicissitudes of HIV infection, as well as the social stigma that infection often brings, are discovering comfort, acceptance, and a new kind of hope.

"Most infected people keep clear of churches," explains Nuru Director John Maina. "The reason is twofold: HIV-positive people are often considered 'sinners' and avoided; and infected people also often consider themselves unworthy of the church community. As a result, they can become isolated and depressed—and a greater burden on their families as well. Our strategy in placing this club at the Kibera church is intended to confront this potential for stigmatization from both sides."

Support group participants receive vital information about medications and nutrition, as well as spiritual and emotional encouragement. They learn that "living positive" is not all there is to their lives; they discover how to "live positively."

"'Living positively' is a term that denotes a decisive change of attitude—a commitment to living healthy, living responsibly, living with hope," says Maina.

A typical meeting includes Bible study, fellowship, and HIV empowerment sessions. There is also a time for table banking—a model of mutual financial support through which group members share their savings, loan payments and other contributions to be able to fund micro-loans.

"Through Nuru initiatives, the church has learned to incorporate some of the HIV-positive people in the congregation—people who might initially have been stigmatized," Maina observes. "This has led to a real sense of belonging for these men, and a more positive attitude toward life."

To learn more about LHM's Nuru Lutheran Media ministry center in Kenya, visit nurulhm.blogspot.com.

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