Since NACC was set up in 1999, the civil society has grown in leaps and bounds to become a formidable partner in the fight against the HIV epidemic. Among the various Civil society entities in Kenya, NACC has had one of the most diverse and extensive set of civil society partners where an estimated 14,000 of them are currently engaged in HIV and AIDS activities in the country.
The NACC recognizes that civil society plays a key role in the response to the AIDS epidemic in the general and contextualized HIV epidemic around the country. The importance of securing input from the full spectrum of civil society, including people living with HIV, cannot be overstated; civil society speaks with many voices and represents many different perspectives. The wide range of strategic and tactical expertise within civil society organizations makes them ideal partners in the process of preparing National Progress Reports. Specifically, NACC recognizes that civil society organizations are well positioned to provide quantitative and qualitative information to augment the HIV data collected by the government.
The NACC’s interest in engaging with civil society over the fifteen years assumes an understanding that collaboration generates a sense of mutual added value. The acknowledgement that People living with HIV, representatives of key affected populations or those who assist them can provide comprehensive information on the specific behavior patterns that may be driving the epidemic in a country and how best to reach their constituency with targeted and effective services is a driving force towards meaningful engagement of these partners in the HIV planning, HIV programme implementation, monitoring and evaluation with a base line emphasis on community reporting on all HIV projects in the country.
Early partnering with the Civil Society may have well started with AIDS activists, but over the years it gradually expanded to a wide diversity of civil society partners. The civil society early role in the fight against the epidemic developed at a time when many Governments in Africa were deemed reluctant to even acknowledge AIDS. At the time, Government and Civil Society Organizations were initially confrontational in their approach towards the HIV and AIDS epidemic. At the time the CSOs felt the government were not doing enough and made demands for more action against a sprawling epidemic from a single case diagnosed in 1984 to what surveillance reports of the 90s highlighted as 20% and 30% prevalence rates in some Kenyans regions such as Western and Nyanza.
Although the Kenyan Government responded to the epidemic via the Ministry of Health, the attempts to control and manage the epidemic largely proved elusive and HIV continued to spread among the Kenyan people with devastating impact in the society that threatened the development of the country. With this in mind organizations that were interested in supplementing government efforts came on board to develop programmes on HIV and AIDS. Some of the Civil Society Organizations used their little resources to respond to the HIV and AIDS Epidemic. Soon some international Organization came in and started supporting local initiatives.
Today, with the realization that HIV epidemic is a huge challenge, CSOs have become formidable partners as they form HIV consortiums for purposes of strengthening their response to the Epidemic. As a result, organizations such as Kenya AIDS Consortium (KANCO), Kenya Network of Women living with AIDS (KENWA) and Network of People Living with HIV and AIDS in Kenya (NEPHAK) have all augmented the efforts to eradicate HIV and AIDS in Kenya.