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Health

This 13-Year-Old in Kenya Teaches People About HIV and Polio Through Poetry

Why Global Citizens Should Care
Half of the world's population lacks access to basic health services and essential information to prevent the spread of disease. Individuals like 13-year-old Meshack are working to change this. Join us in taking action here to support quality health care for all.

Kenyan teen poet Meshack is just 13 years old, but he's already making a major difference in his community by teaching people about HIV and polio through his art, the BBC reports.

Meshack first learned about public health issues from his mother, who is volunteers as a health worker.

During his school holidays, the teen accompanies his mother to the health facility where she works, where he gives talks in the form of spoken-word poetry to educate people on the dangers of polio and pneumonia — among other diseases — and raises awareness about the importance of HIV testing.

Take Action: Teach others about Universal Health Coverage

Many of the people he speaks to are mothers, who play particularly important roles in ensuring their children stay healthy and get vaccinated.

"I make sure I pass information to people, mostly mothers, so that they can take their children to be immunized," he says.

Meshack is determined to become a doctor so that he can help those he sees suffering in Kenya, he tells the BBC.

More than 36 million people around the world were living with HIV in 2017 — and nearly 2 million of them were children under the age of 15.

Although 75% of people reported knowing their HIV status, the remaining 25% did not have access to testing, which is an essential step toward preventing and treating the virus before it develops into AIDS.

"It is important for people to talk about HIV and AIDS because there are some people who don't have information," Meshack tells the BBC.

Read More: Ghana Is Using Medical Drones to Deliver Crucial Supplies to Those in Need

Sub-Saharan Africa is hit the hardest by HIV and is home to more than two-thirds of the world's population of people diagnosed with HIV.

Kenya, in particular, has one of the highest rates of HIV. The virus impacts as many as 25% of people in the western part of the country.

Leadership and activism from individuals like Meshack as well as continued global efforts to improve access to health education and services are needed to eradicate HIV, polio, and other life-threatening diseases.