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In her role as MTV Staying Alive Special Ambassador, R&B singer-songwriter Kelly Rowland has agreed to be tested for HIV and AIDS in Nairobi, setting an impressive example for youth on a global-scale to do the same.
By stepping up not only in word, but in action, Kelly is going beyond conventional celebrity cause-promotion and is leading by example on an issue that is both relevant and pressing to all of us as a global community in the 21st century.
Her action is a prime example of the standard of integrity the Staying Alive Foundations most recent campaign - Stand by What You Say - aims to promote in encouraging people to talk openly about sex, sexual health and HIV/AIDS thereby helping to raise awareness of the deadly epidemic.
Kellys decision to be tested stems from her strong belief that knowledge and information is power. The act is also a symbolic gesture of respect to the heroic recipients of the 2008 Staying Alive Foundation Awards, whose dedication to encouraging, educating and empowering their peers in the fight against HIV and AIDS was recognised by Ms Rowland and the Foundation through a cash grant enabling them to continue their inspirational projects.
Kelly Rowland praised the relentless commitment of the 2008 Grant recipients, and also took the opportunity to make an impassioned plea for Kenyan and Tanzanian youth to recognize the importance of HIV testing in limiting the spread of new infections.
Commented Rowland, we need to encourage our youth to get tested. If more young people would take the simple step of getting tested for HIV as soon as it appears that they are at risk, then it would help to reduce the spread of HIV infection. HIV tests in Kenya and Tanzania are free and take just a few minutes to do. Ignorance is not bliss when it comes to HIV infection, and it is important for everyone to know their HIV status. The quicker you know your status, the sooner you can receive treatment if youre HIV+, and reduce the risk of inadvertently infecting future partners,
The 2008 Staying Alive grantees should be proud of the vital function they fulfil in their communities by helping to raise the awareness about HIV/AIDS. By stressing the importance of prevention, raising awareness about the basic issues surrounding HIV and AIDS and reducing stigma associated with infection they are taking direct action to help stop the spread of the disease, added Rowland.
Rowland, a multi-platinum selling artist and founder member of Destinys Child, revealed the 2008 grantees at a press conference during her trip this week to visit Kenyan and Tanzanian projects and grantees funded by the MTV Staying Alive Foundation.
Commented Georgia Arnold, Senior Vice President, Social Responsibility, MTV Networks International and Executive Director, Staying Alive Foundation, We are delighted that Kelly Rowland has decided to go the extra mile to support the cause and be tested for HIV herself. The impact of such a gesture is massive. Kellys decision first to take a stand and speak out about HIV and AIDS and then to actually stand up for what she says, not only contributes to reducing the social stigma surrounding HIV and AIDS testing, but in doing so she is also inspiring youth globally to take the next step and do the same.
Added Ms Arnold We are very pleased that Kelly has been able to join us in both Kenya and Tanzania to witness and highlight the courageous and important work of groups like PYI, REPACTED, KSHDG, TAYOPA and the Elizabeth Youth Group. It is thanks to innovative grassroots projects such as these - and the impressive young people involved in them - that we can help turn the tide against the spread of HIV and AIDS.
Staying Alive Foundation Awards are presented to individuals or groups who are relentless in their mission to encourage, educate and empower their peers in the fight against HIV and AIDS. Each Staying Alive Grant recipient receives a cash grant from the Staying Alive Foundation to enable them to realise a project associated with raising the awareness about HIV/AIDS.
The Kenyan recipients of the 2008 Staying Alive Foundation Awards are:
- Kisumu Self Help Disabled Group (KSHDG) - KSHDG are the recipients of a second consecutive Staying Alive Foundation grant and will build on their current project which aims to raise awareness on HIV among disabled youth. KSHDG will use their Staying Alive funds to help organise four Community dialogue forums, conduct peer education outreaches, organize three testing promotion forums, organise peer education training for 30 disabled youths and facilitate monthly video shows.
- REPACTED (Rapid Effective Participatory Action in Community Theatre Education and Development) - Led by Collins Dennis Oduor and Dennis Kimambo, community theatre group REPACTED, also receiving their second grant from the Staying Alive Foundation, will build on their existing project to focus on educating youth in prisons and sex workers through the use of their 'magnet theatre' approach. REPACTED has committed to training 75 'change agents' (peer educators), organise three youth symposiums, organising 11 community theatre outreaches with mobile testing units, creating and distributing a monthly magazine, establishing a support group and a community theatre group, and organising monthly life skill demonstration forums as well as a World AIDS Day event.
- Positive Youth Initiative (PYI) PYI received their grant from the Staying Alive Foundation in December 2007. Set up by a group of HIV+ and youth, PYI is training Kenyan HIV+ youth to become educators and counsellors, to develop therapy sessions for young people living with HIV, and organise dialogue forums for young people and develop their resource centres. One of the groups main aims is to encourage young people to get tested for HIV.
- ELIZABETH YOUTH GROUP First time grantees Elizabeth Youth Group is a project led by Eliza, a young HIV+ Tanzanian woman. Eliza, an ex-sex worker, now dedicates her life to working with high-risk youth such as sex workers and drug users, educating and empowering them with information about HIV/AIDS. Over the next 12 months, the project will educate 100 young people to become peer educators, hold two workshops on HIV, organise screenings of the documentary on Elizas life and organise two drama presentations, a concert and a music show to mark World AIDS Day.
- TAYOPA Kelly will also be meeting with TAYOPA, who received their Staying Alive Foundation grant in December 2007. TAYOPA is an organisation set up in Dar es Salaam by HIV+ youth who use drama, music and storytelling to inform young people about HIV.
Details of Kelly Rowlands trip to Kenya will be included in Kelly Rowland Diary, airing on MTV channels around the world on World Aids Day (1 December 2008). Excerpts from her visit to East Africa including her trip to visit Hyena Square in Dar es Salaam, and her experiences at a HIV testing centre in Nairobi, will also be available online on a special microsite, www.kellyrowlandafrica.com, from 23 June 2008.
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