U. of Nairobi Starts Campaign Against AIDS Epidemic on Campus
By BURTON BOLLAG
The University of Nairobi, Kenya's leading higher-education institution, has started a campaign to confront an epidemic of AIDS on campus, one of the first African institutions to do so.
Announcing the efforts, Vice Chancellor Francis Gichaga said AIDS had become the leading cause of death among the institution's 20,000 students. He told a campus meeting that, in his capacity as university head, he "signed at least two condolences per week," with most deaths caused by AIDS.
No figures are available on the rate of infection among the university's students or staff. But Sabbie Mulindi, a senior lecturer of psychiatry and head of the department of behavioral sciences, estimates the rate is at least as high as among Kenya's adult population: 10 percent to 20 percent.
The university intends to take a broad-based approach to preventing the spread of AIDS and dealing with the disease's consequences. It plans to establish voluntary H.I.V. testing and counseling on campus and will begin distributing condoms to promote safe sex.
Mr. Mulindi, who is coordinating the university's efforts, said Kenya's sharp economic downturn of the last couple of years was contributing to the epidemic. More and more students' families are falling into poverty and unable to provide money for their children, and an increasing number of female students are being forced to provide sexual "favors" to earn the money they need to stay at their studies, he said. Some have become infected as a result.
Nairobi acted after the government finally ended its long silence on the growing epidemic. Last fall, Kenya's president, Daniel
arap Moi gave in to the calls of activists and international donors and declared AIDS a "national disaster." Recently the Ministry of Education began sending instructions to all higher-education institutions, telling them to develop strategic plans on how they will fight the disease.