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 You are in: Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice > Former Secretaries of State > Former Secretary of State Colin L. Powell > Speeches and Remarks > 2005 > January

Remarks to Students

Secretary Colin L. Powell
Intercontinental Hotel
Nairobi, Kenya
January 8, 2005

Secretary Powell spoke to students at the Intercontinental Hotel in Nairobi, Kenya.SECRETARY POWELL: Hello, everybody. How are you? Good to see you all. How is everybody this morning? Good looking group.

(Laughter).

Well, Iím very pleased to have this opportunity to speak to young people about a subject that is enormously important, and thatís HIV/AIDS. I just donít want to speak to you, I want to hear from you. I want to hear what youíre doing and how youíre approaching this problem. The United States has made a major commitment to fighting HIV/AIDS, because it really is the greatest weapon of mass destruction in the world today, killing 8,000 people every single day and infecting so many more every single day. And there are many ways to fight this disease, by, first of all, education of young people, education of not-so-young people, encouraging the right kinds of behavior so that you avoid the infection--being faithful to the partner, thereby reducing the likelihood of infection. And then, we also have to work, as we are, on treatment for those who are sick with the disease, and finding ways to cure the disease--not just treat it, but cure it. And then finally, making sure that those who are stricken with the disease are not stereotyped, are not looked down on in society. They have an illness and we should treat that illness, but we should also respect that individual and not look the other way and think that that person is somehow less than we are. And we have to bring people out so they know that there is hope and that people want to work with them.

And so, my country has invested something like $15 billion-- President Bush has allocated $15 billion--to help, and we have a variety of programs around the world and in Kenya, as well. And some of the groups represented here are supported by U.S. funding. But beyond that, we have many more billions of dollars that are being spent in the United States looking for a cure, looking for new treatment. And hopefully these treatments will become more effective and weíll be able to get broader distribution and lower cost of treatment for HIV/AIDS. And letís hope for the day when it is possible that itís cured with the right kind of medication and inoculations.

So, Iím very pleased to be with you and to have a chance to spend some time talking about this, but Iíd really rather hear from you. What do you see as the problem in Kenya, in Nairobi, and how are you dealing with it? What are the organizations that you represent? What do you do, and what contribution are you making to this? Who would like to get started? If thereís no volunteer, Iíll pick on someone.

QUESTION: My name is Alex Wasika, representing NOPE, that is National Organization of Peer Educators. What weíve been doing in terms of trying to address the issue of HIV/AIDS--weíve been doing a lot of peer education to our fellow peers, that is the young people. Weíve been doing a lot of peer counseling, also to the young people, and right now thereís a project that we are implementing, we call it the NOPE youth initiative. What weíre trying to do is to communicate abstinence to the young people through outreach activities, and also weíre trying to promote faithfulness for those young people who are married, especially between the age of 10 to 25 years of age. Yeah, thatís basically what weíre doing.

SECRETARY POWELL: How large a program do you have? How many people do you have, how many people are you working with and reaching out to?

QUESTION: We are quite a number of young people, we are around 50 young people who are doing the education. So far, weíve trained around 200 TOTs, that is, trainers of trainers, in peer education. And weíve trained around 800 peer educators, who are helping us disseminate this same information to their fellow peers.

SECRETARY POWELL: You do this through schools, orÖ

QUESTION: Yeah, weíre targeting both in and out-of-school youths. All over the country.

SECRETARY POWELL: So, itís a national program?

QUESTION: Yeah, itís a national program

QUESTION: My name is Pascal. I work for "I Choose Life." "I Choose Life" works with university students on HIV/AIDS. We are currently operating in six universities in the country. And so what we do, we train students on HIV/AIDS. They go through a three-month intensive HIV/AIDS training. After that, we have other, more advanced training which we call Life Skills, and so what we doÖso far weíve trained about 1443 students in three universities. Weíve just gone into some more three universities in January ,where we hope to have similar programs running there.

So most of these students even after they leave campus, they go on to be involved in organizations like NOPE. Actually sheís gone through "I Choose Life" when she was on campus, even from PSI, so these students they also go after they clear campus and get involved in that. Those who are in campus, after we train them, they also go and do what you call BCC [behavior change communications] after they go through the training, they go and talk to at least five of their peers in the university on what theyíve learned through the whole training period. And so we hope that if weíve trained one student, weíve reached out to about five other students. We also have outreach activities that sustain those students that weíve been training so that they keep on being involved.

We, at times, also go to high schools, where we go and pass the same information and we work with most of the youth groups, we work closely with the university administration, and what we call the Commission of Higher Education, which is under the Ministry of Health. And we get lots of help from other organizations, youth organizations.

SECRETARY POWELL: Very good.

QUESTION: OK, Iím Michael. Iím coming from the group, the PSI group from Dandora region. Dandora is one of the largest estates in Nairobi and we teach people through skits and plays about HIV/AIDS. We teach them about cross-generational sex, too, and to abstain, because those are the risk factors for HIV. So, thatís what we would normally do. YeahÖ has helped us a lot. Thank you.

QUESTION: My name is Boniface Mwendwa, in Rangers Youth Group, which works with PSI, the one he is supporting, because PSI works with groups in the estates and the slums. I am coming from Mathari slums, which is one of the largest slums after Kibera. What we are doing, we are doing community outreach, in schools, in the community churches, in market place and we are also going to most probably going to start going to mosques.

We are talking about abstinence, we have a slogan--"Nime Chill"--"I am abstaining. Iíve been abstaining, Iím abstaining and I will abstain until I get married." So we are talking about cross-generational sex, to break cross-generational sex. Because weíve found that most of the young peoples who are affected, they are not being affected by their peers. They are being affected by a person older than them. You know the survey that was done in Kenya, it shows that most of the age group that is vulnerable in Kenya is for theÖitís around 9 to 16 years, for the young girls. They are more vulnerable than the boys in the same age bracket

SECRETARY POWELL: They are being exploited by older men?

QUESTION: Yeah, theyíre being exploited by the people we are calling "Sugar Daddies." So, they are the agents, because they have money, they have what it takes, they have advantage over them. So, we are talking about abstaining and we are also talking about the risk of cross-gen in the schools. We are telling them, we are training them on HIV. We are also talking about other STIs, the diseases associated with HIV/AIDS. In the churches we are also talking about abstinence and being faithful and using a condom, in the community. Because most of the churches areÖthe religion in KenyaÖsome of the religions have not accepted the issue of condoms, using a condom, as one of the protections. They believe there is only one mode of prevention and that is abstaining and being faithful to your partner. But for those who can, in the villages, we are talking about using a condom as another option.

And for our school, we are talking about cross-generation, we are also talking about abstinence and if they can, we are encouraging them to delay their sexual debut, maybe to engage in sex when they know what they are doing. Because most of them, those who suffer from HIV, the young people, they donít know what they are in. When they are engaging in those funny relationships, they donít know where it will end and what it will get them into. So we are, at least, we are telling them to delay their sexual debut so that they can--if they must engage in sex, they can engage at a later stage when they know the risk of engaging in sex, and also we are talking about condom again. If they canít use the two modes, they have another option apart from using the condom, which PSI is also promoting.

SECRETARY POWELL: Are you successful? Are you getting to young people, or do they say, "No, no, youíre square. Donít talk to me about this?"

QUESTION: Yeah, it has been a problem, but we are believing now that we have started getting the target. Because we are targeting all the age groups, not only the young, but we are, we want to make it on the young people because they are most affected in society. But we are also targeting the older people because they are the people who are infecting the young people. But,the message has not been received quite well, but we are fighting and believing that, at the end of the day, people are going to embrace what we are talking about, and that they are going to abstain, and that we are not going to have AIDS as another killer, like the tsunami with the Asians.

SECRETARY POWELL: My wife was involved in a program that deals with abstinence, but itís a program where they provide young girls an alternative,in the form of group activities: dacing, gymnastics, reinforcing one another so that they are not facing this alone. And they have other young girls who feel the same way they do. And itís been very successful, not only in terms of HIV/AIDS, but also in terms of teenage pregnancy--a drop in the rate of pregnancy down to something like one or two percent, compared to say 20 or 25 percent. But it requires the reinforcement of the group, so that no one young woman, young girl, is subjected to all this pressure, (inaudible) where she has no other healthy activity that she can participate in, that would divert her attention away from this promiscuous early sexual behavior.

QUESTION: So, we do this through drama skits, where people can associate with what we are doing, and we also do narratives, oral narratives.

SECRETARY POWELL: You did the skit for me last time, I think it was this group around here.

QUESTION: Not, it was not us.

SECRETARY POWELL: Who was it? Oh, Okay.

QUESTION: That is what we do, in the community, they come and see. We also do some sessions, some question and answer sessions. They ask about HIV, and we answer them because we are trained by PSI as a trainer of trainees and we are also peer educators.

SECRETARY POWELL: Okay, you want to say something?

QUESTION: Oh, yeah, I am James. Iím from the same group. Perhaps you are wondering why we are using drama as a way of communicating to the youths. We use drama because we have discovered that in Kenya, people like entertainment. So, we have discovered that a one-hour talk on HIV/AIDS is not more effective than a 15-minute drama. And we know youíre working hard, and we know we are reaching out to people.

SECRETARY POWELL: Good.

QUESTION: My name is Alice Wambugu, and I am an advocate for behavior change with PSI. And I am also HIV positive and I advocate especially among the youth about their behavior, because I know most of the youth are getting infected in Kenya because of peer pressure, ignorance. So I go out there, we talk one language, they tell me what they do and I tell them how much they are at risk, as well as give them a personal experience, because it is really not smooth living with HIV.

And I am glad that I can still, we can still talk about and think that secondary virginity is cool, because what I have realized among the youth is most of the time when I go to talk to them, they say that weíve already broken our virginity, you know. But I tell them, you can stillÖsecondary virginity, you know. And thatís why we have the shield, you know, the V, and I think it is working.

SECRETARY POWELL: Good.

QUESTION: And I am very proud of it.

SECRETARY POWELL: Glad to hear. Thank you.

QUESTION: I am Millicent Achieng, and I represent the Kenya Girl Guides. Guiding is a worldwide program, but in Kenya, mostly we deal, we promote and enroll students from primary school to secondary school, because AIDS is whole-life awareness. And everyone should know about it, so even students, they need to grow up, young Brownies and Guides. They need to grow up knowing, so we give them knowledge and understanding about HIV and AIDS. They need to know how the disease gets into your body, how it is spread from one person to another. They also need to know how to care for a person who is infected by HIV/AIDS, and they do that very well.

They have people who go out into the community, they help those who are infected. We have orphans: for example, me, I have, we have children, my uncleís children, I live with them. My uncle, he died of HIV and AIDS, together with his wife. So, itís very hard living with them, and caring for them. We also have to teach them about prevention, how to prevent the spread of the disease. So they also need to know how to prevent it, for example for those who canít abstain, though our motto is to abstain for everybody. All 45,000 Girl Guides in Kenya, their motto is to abstain, they should abstain and that is what is in their mind, but for those who canít or adults, we need to reduce the spread of the disease, we need to promote ways of preventing it like using condoms, being faithful to one person and all that.

They also need to know where to go for the HIV test, like, we have, mostly, the Girl Guides, they know Family Planning Organization of Kenya, thatís most of the time where they take people for HIV tests. Those in high school, they need to know where to go for HIV, for those who have broken their virginity. They need to know where to go for VCT so they can know their status and all that. So, the Girl Guide Association has done so much and it is still enrolling many girls so it can outreach everybody--not only in school, but also in the community.

SECRETARY POWELL: What age do you start talking to young girls?

QUESTION: Ten and above, yeah. Ten and above. That means in primary school, up to high school. And they know so much, yeah. They talk to you now.

QUESTION: Okay, Iím Julia Gathoni. Iím from Nakuru, and the reason I came here is to talk about HIV and AIDS. And what we are learning at school is about self-esteem and values, especially we value our virginity. Cause we donít have to, donít want to be pregnant so early and even we value many things, we learn many topics in school. So, thatís what I can say.

QUESTION: My name is Grace Gathoni. I am learning at St. Xavierís. At school we are taught many things about HIV and AIDS and they have benefited me a lot. And in this program we learn about HIV and AIDS, STIs and STDs. We also are taught how to value our virginity, our education and our life. And after, we are taught love and understood we are able to earn badges--badges which stand for different kinds of activities that we did in school.

QUESTION: Iím Allan Ochieng. I work for an organization called Focus. Basically, apart from dealing with PSI and drama outreaches and reaching out to the community through dramas and many other things, we also take care or orphans in Ngara, the region that I come from. The Pathfinder International trained some of our youth members to be community workers, so as we were working in the community, we found that as the parents are dying of the HIV/ AIDS children are being left behind. So, we got together and thought what are we doing for these kids, these kids who are left behind. And after, they remained behind, there was no one to care of them, the ones who were left behind are basically the elder people--their grandparents. And they are not really able to do much.

So, we got together with the youth and we decided to take in these kids. Now, in Ngara, we have an orphan day care center where we provide for them maybe the morning meal, breakfast, and lunch and they go back in the evening, we provide something for them in the evening. S, in as much as we are addressing the HIV/ AIDS, those are those people that are left behind that will be the future, our future. So, if we donít take care of them, they will also end up in the same thing. So, I really think that PSI, Pathfinder International, that we work with, they have really been of so much support, and I really think that they will still be of much support. And even as we are bringing up these orphans, we should also educate them on the dangers of HIV/ AIDS. Iím really glad to see such help, Iím so proud so much has been done. Thank you.

SECRETARY POWELL: Thank you.

QUESTION: Iím Carol Macharia from FOCUS, the same thing with Allan.

QUESTION: Iím Diana, Iím also from PSI and much has been said, but all I can say is that, all we are trying to do is we are reducing the stigma of the people who are HIV positive so that they can live a positive life. And "Nime Chill"-- Iím abstaining and Iím asking all the youths to chill out.

QUESTION: Ok, Iím Elizabeth Waitera from PSI. What I can say is that if you are not infected, you are affected. And so, we have to fight the disease.

QUESTION: Iím Helen Odhiambo. I come from PSI groups. I work with Kibera community youth program--it stays in Kibera, Kibera being one of the largest slums in our country. We deal with HIV-infected people. We pass information, we try to tell them that we care for those who are already infected, because what is killing the most is discrimination.

We found out that people who are infected, they can still live long. But people are discriminating them and that is making other friends of ours to die, early before their age of dying. So, we do that through drama, which PSI is funding us to do. And because the youths have got a lot of problems and they are the ones that are getting this HIV infection, we try to engage them in activities that can make them to be busy, not to idle around. So we have DIY [Do-It-Yourself] programs, like in our group, we started a solar panel system--do it yourself--we do it in our group, even the girls are doing it. We are becoming entrepreneurs at Kibera. So that people can buy, and we sell them, we get money, and we donít go for money of other men, which can make us get HIV/AIDS.

So even our girls, some are involved in doing things like [hair] plating, in salons, or you just go to a woman who can give you money and then you braid her [hair] and get money, instead of going to boys, who give you money and then you get HIV infection. We also have HBC program, where we go and take care of those who are infected, because we find that even though they have their families, people still fear these people who are HIV infected, they donít want to touch them. So, we are trained and we know how to take care of them. We go to those places that people are sick. We do the bed reading, and people you wash them, you take care of them. We evenÖfrom the little money we getÖin our DIY programs, we buy for them some food and take to them, so that they can still live long.

Apart from that, I also am involved in the ARV program. We take them to AMREF, there are groups that CDC is funding, so that they can still live long with the drugs. And, I appreciate all that people are doing to fund us so that we can end up with a good life.

QUESTION: Morning. I am Peris Wakesho, Iím representing NOPE, but I would like to divert a bit from what we have been talking about, because heís talked about organization and all of us have. I would like to just share a bit of experience from my day-to-day interaction with other young people like me. I think the main issue in Kenya HIV prevention, or HIV as a whole, has been attitude. Because, the attitude that we people have as young people toward other young people, and also the attitude that our parents have, the government has, and even the people living with HIV/AIDS amongst themselves, is what in one way or another has been contributing to the spread of HIV and AIDS. But, if I may say something--over the past few years, what has been happening, from what they are saying, many young people are coming out. They are not going public, but at least they can be able to confide in friends and tell them their HIV status.

So, I think that somehow because of the different activities that weíve been doing in the field, weíve been able to kind of working toward reducing stigma. So, weíre having more young people speaking out, and many people actually going for voluntary counseling and testing, which is a positive sign.

And maybe the other thing that I would really speak about is the attitude that people have towards young people. Because you find that is the hindrance in many things, like the programs that we have, if the attitude is negative towards young people--like here, you believe that as young people we canít do much, we always need someone to push us around to do things, we are people who are rowdy and naughty. But, I think we are trying to change that even by being here. We can reason. All that we need is support. We know we cannot work without adults, we need them to be able to run, and that is why we are working with them with various organizations as young people. But we know that if real changes are going to come by, then thereís need for an adult-youth partnership, for winning in the prevention against HIV and AIDS.

QUESTION: I wanted to say something. My name is Sheila Masinde, Iím from "I Choose Life," I work for "I Choose Life" in Kenyatta University. And I was just listening to what all these young people are saying, and I guess for all of us young people in the different programs that weíre running, what remains as a big challenge to us is how are we going to sustain the behavior change that we are trying to impact on people. Because for a long time in Kenya, we were basically dealing with awareness, giving people knowledge on HIV/AIDS. But we are trying to move away from knowledge, not just knowledge, but how do we transmit this knowledge into attitude, as you said, and then practice. So, I think a big challenge for all of us here, all our different organizations, is how we are going to sustain behavior change, how we are going to sustain peoplesí commitment to abstain, or to use condoms, or to be faithful. That remains a very big challenge for us.

QUESTION: And I think for usÖmy name is Sudi Biko from "I Choose Life"ÖIím a program managerÖbut for us, what weíve tried to do, in order to sustain behavior change, is through what we call behavior change communication group. This one, they usually sustain the behavior. But when we went to universities and did a survey, because thereís this myth that university students are having sex like rabbits, you know, and Kenya being a very patriarchal society, thereís people--a lot of students, you know the male students--are using the machismo, the macho men. And what happens, is that thereís no way, some people think, that a man, a male student, can relate with a female student and not have sex.

But in "I Choose Life," weíve turned that one around. And I can read something from one of our educators. This is what he said: "I Choose Life has really changed my sexual life. Iíve learned to appreciate ladies without getting sexually involved with them." So, for us, just to change the mindset, create positive peer pressure. You know, for every action, thereís a reaction force.

So, thatís what "I Choose Life," thatís what weíre trying to do. Creating positive peer pressure towards abstinence.

QUESTION: Okay. I have a question at the same time that I have a comment. As you know, the HIV pandemic has been cumbersome to Africans, because of poverty. The U.S. Government has been disbursing a lot of funds towards HIV, and malaria for that matter. How can you make sure that these funds reach the proposed people? That is my question.

Secondly, which is a comment: I strongly recommend that the U.S. government work with youth at a grass roots level. I think, from that point, we can reach more and more people suffering from that disease. Because at this point, we just hear that the funds are there, but at the grassroots level, at the slums there, we donít see more help. So, how can you work on that, so that people who are suffering from the disease get good treatment from your funds, by not really getting into the wrong hands?

SECRETARY POWELL: We are very conscious of the need for this large amount of money to go to the right place and be properly used. We have set up an office within the State Department under Ambassador Tobias, and he is responsible for all of our programs, and he makes sure that there is accountability. Some of the programs are for education, youth education. Some of the programs are for the purchases of anti-retroviral drugs. Other parts of the program deal with education against stigmatism. And so, weíre trying to make sure that the money is used the most effective way by giving the money to non-governmental organizations or government programs that have a track record, and have demonstrated some success.

A lot of the things you have talked about, though, really donít need a lot of money, either from the United States or your own governmentÖjust some money, to get it up and running. But what is so important is that young people, such as yourselves, are playing a leadership role. Aand what I have seen happen just in the last four years that Iíve been Secretary of State and working on this issues, is that more and more governments, and more and more people, are willing to speak out about this, not hide and say, "Weíre not having it here," or "Thereís really no such thing as HIV/AIDS." Everybody is now talking about it. Just the other day, Nelson Mandela stood up and spoke, and said, "My son died of HIV/AIDS"--the most powerful figure in all of Africa, said to all of Africa, "this is not someone elseís problem, someone elseís belief. It can happen in everyoneís family, it happened in my family." That kind of personal example, to share the problem publicly, is important so that people will say, "you know, if Mandela can talk about it, then I should talk about it. And if he had it in his family, then maybe I have it in my family."

And the problem you are working on, the reason your efforts are so important, goes beyond just a health problem. This gentleman made the point, and that was that itís a destroyer of society, itís a destroyer of economy. I have been in countries in Africa, where as you noted, the parents are gone, the teachers are gone, the nurses are gone. The grandparents are there and the grandchildren are there, but the part of the population in their 20s and 30s and 40s that are the wage earners, that should be making the greatest contribution to the economy and to society, have been decimated by HIV/AIDS, leaving orphans and young people who are being taken care of by grandparents--grandparents who thought their children would be taking care of them. And now itís the other way around.

This is a major challenge for Africa, but not only for Africa. We see it happening in other parts of the world, as well: the Caribbean, close to my home; the United States has suffered from this, as well; India; China; Russia. It is a disease that affects all. It is not just restricted to Africa. But the greatest challenge is in Africa, where there are countries that have such high rates of incidence. That has to be brought down or else you are forfeiting your future. Youíre forfeiting your economic future and your social future.

So, I congratulate all of you for your commitment to this work, and I hope that you will go back and tell all of your associates that the United States and the Secretary of State congratulates them for what they are doing, and weíll try to get as much money as we can into the right hands, so that it is used in the correct manner. Now, you want all the money, right.

(Laughter)

Iím afraid I have to go see the President, but go ahead.

QUESTION: One last question. How come the Kenyan, the African youths are getting more infected than the youths from the United States? What is it that the youth in the United States do for the prevention?

SECRETARY POWELL: Well, as you know, 20 years ago we had very serious problems in the United States and we still have problems in the United States --not as severe as I think they were 20 years ago. But everything that youíve been talking about--use of condoms, faithfulness, abstinence at an early age, programs like the one I described earlier, the one my wife is involved with. And so, recognizing the problem, speaking out about the problem, and then coming up with strategies to deal with the problem, whether itís ABC or some other program.

Africa, I think, for too long a period of time ignored the problem, looked the other way and said, "No, this isnít happening." And I wonít go into the details of this, but there were some governments that said, "This isnít happening." And then there were some governments that were enlightened, and said, "This IS happening." And there were cultural and tribal issues associated with this where, you know, promiscuity was accepted or even encouraged. And those sorts of patterns of behavior have to change in order to prevent death for the young people.

But donít think that this is just an African problem. Itís a problem with all the other countries I mentioned and I have had conversations with Russians, with Indians, with Chinese, about how this is going to affect them just as surely as it has affected sub-Saharan Africa.

QUESTION: I have one last question. I know you are going to meet our President today. (inaudible). I have a request. Maybe if you can discuss it, can see how you can help Kenyans, work with our government to set up a grant for youth and HIV/AIDS problem. Just a grant, so that (inaudible).

SECRETARY POWELL: The ambassador just heard you, Ambassador Bellamy.

I do have to go because the president is waiting for me. Thank you all very much. Bye-bye.

2005/48


Released on January 9, 2005

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