'One2One saves lives'
'One2One saves lives'
“We literally save lives with the One2One telephone line,” says Lilian Kunyiha (29), who will never forget when an 18-year-old girl called in two years ago. “She was raped by her father at a young age and infected with HIV. She was now an orphan, and didn't want to live anymore.” For three months, Lilian called the girl almost daily, convincing her to see a doctor and take up her medication. “After another three months of weekly telephone contact, the girl returned to school and eventually even passed her final exams,” says Lilian. “I am proud that I was able to help her get her life back on track.”
Mental health and HIV
The One2One platform in Kenya consists of a helpline, website and chat box where young people can get information about sex, love and health. “We also provide a lot of information about HIV”, says Lilian who is the HIV expert within the platform. “Unlike the regular healthcare system in Kenya, we pay a lot of attention to mental health; we ask how the person is doing, whether they understand that they can still lead a normal life with HIV and whether they suffer from side effects of the HIV medication, for example. This way we try to support them as best as possible.”
The helpline also guides young people in telling their partner their HIV status. “We explain that the risk of infection is low if the viral load is low, they use contraceptives and the partner takes PrEP. Couples can also have HIV-negative children this way. This knowledge is crucial for partners and can help ensure they stay together”, believes Lilian.
The LGBTI community is an important target group for One2One. “In regular healthcare, this group runs the risk of having revealed their sexual orientation or HIV status, which can be life-threatening for them,” tells Lilian. Gay relations and gay sex are prohibited by law in Kenya and carry a prison sentence of 14 years. “One2One is very important for them because we are non-judgmental, confidential and easily accessible because we are toll free.”
According to Lilian, providing correct information is of vital importance. “For example, many gay young people wrongly believe that they cannot get HIV because they do not have vaginal sex,” says the helpline employee. “The telephone line and website also provide specific information about STIs that are more common after anal sex and refer to affiliated LGBTI-friendly clinics nearby.”
Every day Lilian is aware of how important her work is. “Two years ago a close cousin died of AIDS. He had never told anyone and had never taken any medication,” says Lilian. “I wish I had known. Then I could have helped him and he would probably still be alive. His death gave me extra motivation to learn even more about HIV, to continue doing this work and thus continue to save lives.”
One2One is a trademark under LVCT Health in Kenya since 2006 when the organisation initiated a confidential and non-judgmental youth hotline providing quality information on HIV and SRHR. In the past years the youth brand expanded its communication channels with social media among others and currently integrates a website that was launched in 2021.