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Mercy Mutonyi is a champion of HIV prevention programming for female sex workers and vulnerable young women at Bar Hostess Empowerment and Support Program. A current AVAC advocacy fellow, Mercy has years of experience working for and with female sex workers and vulnerable women in Kenya.

At IAS 2019, she took over the UNICEF HIV Twitter account and spoke at a panel on gender transformative approaches for the HIV response. Here, she discusses key messages for from this year’s conference.

What do you think are the biggest lessons coming out of IAS 2019 for programmes and policy makers?

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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.

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(+254) 020-260-8944

        Email: info@ bhesp.org

Kasarani Near Do's office

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