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Jane Story of Positive Living and Being a Peer Educator

A constricted path, iron sheet houses, roadside food vendors are the site that greets you when you visit Kiambiu slums that borders Eastleigh suburb in Nairobi.

“Welcome to Kiambiu,” says 42-year-old Jane*, dressed in a black jacket with a smiley face, as she ushers me into her single room.

Jane, who is a peer educator at Bar Hostess Empowerment and Support Programme {BHESP}, started sex work back in 1995 in order to make ends meet.

“Life was not a walk in the park especially in slums so I had no choice but to venture into sex work at least to put food on the table,” explains the mother of four.

Jane reckons that during her early days in sex work majority of her peers were not well conversant with HIV prevention interventions consequently many including her were infected with HIV as in Kenya sex workers have the highest HIV prevalence of 29% among the key populations.

“I got infected with HIV back in 2015 and to be honest it was so painful and that’s where I vowed to be at the forefront in advocating for safer sex among my peers. During our time we were not empowered with knowledge on HIV prevention interventions but now I am well informed and I am at the forefront fighting new HIV infections,’’ she explains.

For four years, Jane works as a peer educator in Kiambiu, ensuring her cohort of 68 peers are receiving HIV testing services and HIV prevention interventions at the community level.

“We normally have hotspot based outreaches here in Kiambiu and I mobilize my peers to come and receive services including testing and treatment, STI treatment and condom use. They are really happy since the services, that seek to reduce new HIV infections, are brought closer to them,” she elaborates.

She adds that; “I refer the clients to our wellness center at Jogoo road where they receive cervical cancer screening, family planning among other services.”

For female sex workers living with HIV, Jane, who is among more than 100 clients who pick their HIV medication at BHESP’s comprehensive care clinic, says BHESP has support groups where they meet on a monthly basis to discuss issues pertaining to adherence leading to empowerment and greater uptake of treatment services.

“We meet at the support group and have discussions on how to ensure we are not re-infected and ways of reducing the risk of infection for our clients. The support group has helped us to better understand clinical services and give us support to seek and adhere to different services,” she concludes.

*Name has been changed to protect the identity of the subject.

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