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KENYA: Alcohol counselling programme improves ARV adherence

Photo: Kenneth Odiwuor/IRIN
The gatherings are structured along the lines of Alcoholics Anonymous meetings
BUSIA, 7 September 2009 (PlusNews) - Christopher Orodi admits he has a pretty serious drinking problem; the weekly support group he attends not only helps keep him off the bottle, it keeps him on his life-prolonging antiretroviral (ARV) medication.

"I realised that if I did not stop drinking, I was going to die from HIV... I cared more about alcohol than my drug timetable," he told IRIN/PlusNews in his hometown of Busia, western Kenya.

The Busia Alcohol Counselling Programme, helps alcohol abusers form support groups where they can learn healthy habits and encourage each other not to take risks with their drug regimens. 

The programme was established in 2007 with support from the Regional Outreach Addressing AIDS through Development Strategies Project, funded by the United States Agency for International Development's East Africa office and managed by the NGO, Family Health International. In 2009, the programme transitioned to support from the AIDS, Population, and Health Integrated Assistance Programme in western Kenya, funded by USAID/Kenya.

Studies have shown that hard drinking is associated with decreased ARV uptake and adherence.

"Many people have died because they could not take their drugs due to drinking; some were re-infecting themselves due to risky sexual behaviours as result of alcoholism," Orodi said.

The gatherings are styled along the lines of Alcoholics Anonymous meetings and convened by a trained counsellor.

"Most members of these groups are people who joined voluntarily and who approached us to admit that drinking was affecting not only their lives, because they were not taking their drugs consistently, but [also] … their families because of the correlation [between] alcoholism and gender based violence," said Ronald Barasa, a counsellor and former addict.

Research by Horizons, a USAID research project, called for alcohol counselling to be included in voluntary counselling and testing; it found that 33 percent of drinkers interviewed were violent towards their partners when drunk.

''I realised that if I did not stop drinking I was going to die from HIV''
For Orodi, the meetings are already paying off. "My wife and I are now adhering to our ARVs and we make sure our last-born daughter - who is also positive - takes her ARVs on time," he said.

"I can now work and earn a living to support my family; the violence that was the norm in my marriage is now behind me," he added.

Since its formation in 2007, the alcohol counselling programme has created 106 groups with more than 1,600 members; the model is being replicated in Uganda and Tanzania with the help of the Kenyan groups.


Theme (s): Care/Treatment - PlusNews, Education, Gender Issues, HIV/AIDS (PlusNews), PWAs/ASOs - PlusNews,

[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]

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