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The World Health Organization notes that AIDS is the leading cause of death among adolescents in Africa - and the second highest globally.  High numbers of new HIV infections are in young people below 24 years of age, representing a significant economic and cost of life liability for Governments.  In Kenya, it is estimated that 30% of new infections are in this group posing challenges for attainment of economic and youth empowerment goals as espoused in Vision 2030.

How do you respond when you read about and hear such scary statistics?

Our churches have come a long way in helping their flock re-examine their attitudes and activities in the area of HIV response and care.  Many are assisting children orphaned by AIDS. Many more are seeking for ways to network with other believers in their communities, in order to prevent HIV, and meet the treatment and care and support needs of children who are living with HIV.

Maarifa is a faith-based initiative that seeks to meet the psychosocial needs of young people living with HIV. Maarifa is a Kiswahili word that means, “A plan to overcome a difficulty.”  This curriculum will enable the youth to arm themselves with right attitudes and actions (armor) so that they may have the courage to face all struggles, as they seek to make good decisions.

Ravi Zacharias, a leading Christian Apologist has remarked: “If the Church of Jesus Christ rises to the challenge of HIV/AIDS it will be the greatest apologetic the world has ever seen.” Indeed Maarifa is rising up to fill a gap that remains gaping in the response to HIV and AIDS! Through this program, young people will be able to access psychosocial support. They will have the benefit of interacting with volunteer facilitators in their community who will be able to meet their psychosocial needs. They will also gain access to tools that will assist them in living a positive lifestyle.

To that end, I highly endorse Maarifa and hope that many of us will seek to partner with Jessica and AIC, so we can hinder the spread of HIV in generations to come.

- Dr. Peter Okaalet, Executive Director, Okaalet and Associates

Dr. Okaalet is a Ugandan physician who holds Masters Degrees in both Divinity and Theology, from the Nairobi Evangelical Graduate School of Theology (Now Africa International University), and a Degree in Medicine from Makerere University in Kampala, Uganda. He was, up to September 2011, the Senior Director for Health and HIV/AIDS Policy at MAP International, as well as a member of MAP’s Global Council. In October 2011, Dr. Okaalet, founded Okaalet and Associates Limited, a consulting firm that is committed to mentoring the next generation, building up transformative leaders, and nurturing Christian marriages, as well as working to prevent HIV.

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