NAIROBI, Kenya – Sen. Barack Obama will take a public HIV test at a remote Kenyan clinic this weekend to promote HIV/AIDS prevention in a country where an average of 700 people die each day from the disease.
Obama, the only African-American in the Senate, was to arrive in Kenya Thursday and take the test in the western village of Nyangoma-Kogelo, where his father — a goat herder who went on to study at Harvard — grew up and his grandmother still lives, said Jennifer Barnes, a spokeswoman at the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi.
Two million of Kenya's 33 million people have HIV, although the number of new infections has recently declined. Around 1.5 million people have died from the disease — and western parts of the country are the worst hit.
Obama, D-Ill., was to visit Kenya for six days including a meeting with President Mwai Kibaki and a trip to the site where Nairobi's U.S. embassy was bombed in 1998, killing 248 people. He will then go on to Djibouti and Chad.
Kenyans in his ancestral village have been preparing for weeks for his return, cutting the grass and leveling the dirt road that leads to the house where his grandmother, Sarah Hussein, has lived all her life, local newspapers reported.
Barack grew up in Hawaii with his American mother after his parents divorced. He has visited Kenya three times, most recently in the early 1990s to introduce his fiancee to his Kenyan family.
Aides said Wednesday that Obama had scrapped plans to visit Congo and Rwanda at the request of the U.S. Embassy in Congo because of postelection fighting in that country's capital, Kinshasa.
Obama began his African tour Sunday with a visit to Nelson Mandela's former prison at Robben Island. He has met with black businessmen, AIDS victims and U.S. Embassy officials, among others.
He paid tribute to South Africans' fight for freedom, saying they taught lessons to the world and helped inspire his own political career.
The candidate's father, also named Barack Obama, became a university lecturer in Uganda after studying economics at Harvard University. He then worked in Kenya's private sector before joining the treasury department, where he became a senior economist.
He died in a car crash in 1982, leaving three wives, six sons and a daughter. One son died in 1984 and all his surviving children, except one, live in Britain or the United States.
Obama's paternal grandfather, Onyango Hussein Obama, was one of the first Muslim converts in the village.