Science & Tech

Kennedy School students help Kenyans battle AIDS

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Project suggests reforms for leading AIDS-fighting organization

Two Kennedy School master’s students, Shanti Nayak and Nazanin Samari-Kermani, went to Kenya to help a leading anti-poverty organization investigate how best to fight AIDS. Their research, with ActionAid-Kenya, a United Kingdom-based organization, identified a variety of reforms that should help ActionAid more efficiently battle the disease, which kills 700 people a day in the East African nation. The two students suggested designing AIDS training for front-line staff, who, they said, often believe in the stereotypes surrounding the disease and feel hopeless about their ability to help. They also suggested revamping community education curricula with an emphasis on the need for activism, and also suggested more work to identify community-based organizations and improve the coordination of their efforts. Samari-Kermani compared attitudes in Kenya to those in the United States in the early stages of the AIDS epidemic here, with people fearful of the disease and believing common stereotypes, for example, that only the promiscuous contract the illness. In addition, with few health facilities and little anti-AIDS medicine available, many in Kenya view the disease as a death sentence. In the face of that hopelessness, Samari-Kermani and Nayak said, there is resistance to even getting tested.