Enhancing Uptake of Youth Friendly Services among Adolescent Girls & Young Women through Peer Mentors in Kenya

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Bhoke attending to a DREAMS’ AGYW at Eastleigh Health Centre

In 2017, Global Communities under the PEPFAR funded USAID DREAMS Program conducted a survey to understand why young people age 15 to 24 years register low uptake of services in health facilities in Kenya, particularly Kamkunji sub-county. The survey targeted 9 health facilities in Kamkunji Sub-County. Findings reavealed that most of these facilities had medics who are outside the youth bracket and therefore young people could not confide in them neither did they feel comfortable approaching them when they went to the health facilites. Based on this background, the DREAMS Program partnered with the Nairobi City County (NCC), Adolescent Youth Health Department to train and place 14 DREAM girls in the 9 local health facilities in Kamukunji Sub-County. The Peer Mentors were trained on Sexual Reproductive Health, Adolescent Package of Care, counselling and Youth Friendly Service provision. The 14 who act as Youth Friendly Service (YFS) Peer Mentors act as a link between the health facilities and girls in safe space groups including young people in the community. Caroline Bhoke age 24 years joined the DREAMS Program in 2016 and is now a  YFS Peer Mentor stationed at Eastleigh Health Centre, one of the 9 health facilities to support provision of YFS. Bhoke confirms that she attends to an average of 25 girls each week and refers them  to access services such as HIV Testing, Ante-Natal Care, Care & Treatment, Family Planning and Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis which are offered within the facility. Bhoke also engages AGYW in safe space groups and facilitates referral of girls to the health facility. Bhokes cites a case of a DREAMS girl age 16 years who came to the health facility with 3 of her friends for HIV Testing Services. Upon receiving her HIV Test results, the girl turned HIV Positive and was very traumatized. “She never wanted to talk to anyone and all she did was ask me if she was going to die. I took her through a private counselling session and explained to her how young people who were HIV positive like her were living healthy and positve lives and that this was not the end of her life. After a long time sitting with her, she accepted her status and agreed to start on medication. I took her to the comprehensive care clinic where she was placed on Anti-retrovial Treatment. Since then I’ve been following up with the girl and she is adhering to her medication.” Bhoke says the key lesson she has learnt as a Peer Mentor is that young people find it easier to relate and seek advice from their peers. She notes that this has encouraged young people to take up care & treatment services as they actually listen to advice given by a young person like them at the health facility. The DREAMS Program intends to scale up this innovative initiative to other health facilities and is working closely with the Nairobi County Health Department to establish a DREAMS Wellness Centre that will will be a girls only drop in centre. “Previously, we had a worrying trend of low turnout among young people in uptake of health  services. We used to attend to an average of 5 to 10 young  people in a month and this number has greatly increased since the introduction of the peer mentors at the health facility.” said Mrs Kwamboka, the health facility in charge at  Easleigh Health Centre. The DREAMS Program has supported 8,749 girls to access Youth Friendly Services to date with 7,305 receiving HIV Testing Services and 27 linked to care & treatment. 3,118 have received post-violence care services while 5,055 have received risk reduction counselling. 7,070 have been screened for STIs with 194 treated for STIs.