IMPROVING PREVENTION EDUCATION AND SERVICES FOR SEX WORKERS

This program is supported by USAID through APHIA II Nairobi and Central. Improving sex education for sex workers was a stretch for a faith based organization. It required a reorientation of the staff, most of whom were not familiar with the ‘Club’ scene whether it be by day or by night. It was difficult to think of launching an HIV prevention program targeting sex workers.

But one year down the line, HWWK can proudly (but humbly) boast of increasing expertise in reaching this at risk population with HIV prevention support and services. The faith based component has given the staff an increased level of compassion for those who are trying their best to make a living in strained economic times. It’s always important to seek first to understand the community we set out to serve and learn from them what they need and how we can serve them best.

With Kenya AIDS Indicator Survey reporting that most new HIV infections occur among the married population, the task has been to identify the drivers of the epidemic. Sex workers, both male and female, were identified as major contributors to the infection cycle. The IPESS staff are aware of the hot spots where transactional sex takes place, knows by name the sex workers and gate keepers, and have provided hope to them. In both Nairobi and Central Provinces programmatic zones have been created, hotspots identified, and peer support groups formed by sexworkers themselves. The peer support groups of Female Sex Workers (FSWs) elected their leaders who have been trained on HIV behaviour change communication using peer led approaches.

Some of the 450 FSWs trained as peer educators participate in conducting night outreaches where they share information on HIV prevention including correct condom use. They target other sex workers and their potential clients. They meet regularly and hold each other accountable on behaviour change. They provide information that is used to plan service delivery such as voluntary testing and counselling for HIV, STI treatment, and management of opportunistic infections.

Lucy, one of the HWWK volunteers who is living positively with HIV has been instrumental in helping sex workers address stigma among themselves. Her anti-stigma campaigns combined with a peer led approach has resulted in increased demand for HIV prevention services among sex workers including condom use, HCT, and initiation of alternative income generating activities. There is hope!

The IPESS program works under the following seven specific objectives:

  • Providing HIV Counseling and Testing (CT) services to 18,000 (10,800 males and 7,200 females)
  • Providing HIV Behavior Change Communication (BCC) and Other Prevention (OP) messages to 120,000 Female Sex Workers (FSWs) and their clients (60,000 males and 60,000 females)
  • Training 500 sex workers as Peer Educators
  • Providing treatment of Sexually Transmitted Infections (STI) to 600 sex workers and their clients
  • Linking 300 sex workers to support groups
  • Reaching at least 12,000 persons with anti-stigma messages
  • Setting up functional 20 condom dispensers