Introduction: Help REACH Africa, in collaboration with Yale University and Q-Initiative, has successfully implemented a two-year HIV Education, Empathy, and Empowerment (HIVE3) program in Kenya. The main objective of the HIVE3 program was to develop a discrete mobile app platform that provides comprehensive peer support for men who have sex with men (MSM). This report highlights the implementation of the program, which utilized WhatsApp as an existing online communication platform in Kenya.

Program Objectives: The HIVE3 program in Kenya aimed to achieve the following specific objectives:

  1. Increase peer social support for Kenyan MSM.
  2. Decrease social isolation among Kenyan MSM.
  3. Minimize the effects of HIV and same-gender stigmas, as well as intersectional stigma, on HIV self-care, including symptom monitoring and medication adherence.
  4. Improve healthcare seeking behaviors among Kenyan MSM, such as HIV testing and retention in HIV care.

Target Population: The HIVE3 program targeted MSM in Kenya who remained at high risk of HIV infection due to various levels of stigma that hindered their utilization of HIV prevention and care services. The program aimed to provide support and resources to Kenyan MSM, regardless of their HIV serostatus.

Program Development and Refinement: The original HIVE3 program was piloted in Accra, Ghana, during the summer of 2016, with the involvement of an ethnically diverse group of HIV-positive MSM volunteers. Building upon this initial pilot, the program underwent further refinement through a randomized controlled trial conducted in Ghana in 2021. To adapt the program for the Kenyan culture and context, an extended version of HIVE3 was implemented in Nairobi and Eldoret.

Recruitment and Selection of Peer Mentors: To ensure representation of diverse backgrounds and experiences, peer mentors were recruited from within the populations being served. The recruitment process was carried out in collaboration with Q-Initiative in Eldoret and Help REACH Africa in Nairobi. The following criteria were used for the selection of peer mentors:

  1. Residency in the study areas of Nairobi and Eldoret.
  2. Identification as a gay or non-gay man who has sex with other men.
  3. Identification as a cisgender male.
  4. Age 18 years or older.
  5. Proficiency in reading, writing, and the use of smartphones and mobile apps.
  6. Ownership of a smartphone.

Training and Support for Peer Mentors: Selected peer mentors participated in a two-day online training program on delivering mentoring services to peers using a provided manual. This training equipped them with the necessary skills and knowledge to effectively support and guide their peers through the HIVE3 program.

Data Collection and Analysis: As part of the program implementation, Help REACH Africa conducted twelve focus group discussions and twelve in-depth interviews with MSM participants. All interviews were transcribed, and the data were coded using Dedoose software. Help REACH Africa is currently analyzing the data and preparing publications to share the findings from the program.

Achievements and Future Plans: The implementation of the HIVE3 program in partnership with Yale University has provided Help REACH Africa with an opportunity to conduct research and successfully deliver this intervention. The program has demonstrated positive outcomes and impacts among the targeted population. In collaboration with Yale, Help REACH Africa has already written a follow-up proposal to expand the HIVE3 program, with the aim of reaching a larger number of MSM and providing them with the necessary support and resources.

Conclusion: Help REACH Africa, in partnership with Yale University and Q-Initiative, has effectively implemented the HIVE3 program in Kenya. Through the use of WhatsApp, the program connected Kenyan MSM with trained peer mentors, increasing peer social support and minimizing the effects of HIV

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