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BY BHESP TEAM.

24TH APRIL 2021. Wherever the truth lies in the ARVs shortage situation in Kenya is something that still remains a mystery, but what everyone knows so far is that the essential commodity is yet to reach its intended recipients, people living with HIV.

Jennifer Gacheru is a clinical officer and the site in charge at Bar Hostess Empowerment and Support programme (BHESP) Roysambu clinic. She has approximately 500 active HIV patients that visit her facility to get life-saving drugs. BHESP as an organization has three different clinics in Nairobi catering for approximately 3,200 HIV positive patients most of whom are sex workers. The last few weeks have been agonizing for Jennifer and her team.

50-year-old Jane Wamboi is a single mother and has been employed as a bar hostess since she was eighteen. Jane’s work has seen her work in different bars and entertainment joints in Nairobi, rising to become a bar manager in her last place of work before she was laid off due to the closure of the facility as a result of a government directive to contain the spread of coronavirus. It is through this bar business that she has put her two sons aged 22 and 25 through school.

Prior to Covid, Jane was living in a two-bedroomed house but she has since moved to a single room, an involuntary move that has deprived her of the comfort and privacy that she once enjoyed. Her near-empty room is where she cooks using her kerosene stove and where she sleeps with her two grown boys. She explains that she has sold her TV set, music system, gas cooker, and most of her cutlery at a throw-away price in order to pay her rent and buy foodstuff. 

6th April 2021…Daisy Kwala is an adherence counselor with Bar Hostess and support Programme (BHESP). Her normal day in the office will see her attend to tens of sex workers some of whom are HIV positive and on ARVs. She says for the last few weeks, ARVs supply has been on a steady decline. “Though we have some stock left, we are worried that if the drugs are not released and distributed we are going to have a serious shortage in the coming days. The patients have had to do with reduced doses” said Ms. Kwala. “People living with HIV will not be able to keep their viral load suppressed and with unsuppressed viral loads, the rate of transmission will be very high, with many new HIV infections thus increase in HIV prevalence in the country” she added.

March 9, 2021 - The effects of Us President Joe Biden to lift the ban on the global gag rule is beginning to take effect as a number of foreign organizations have started making structural adjustments to accommodate the new regime's directive.

February 12, 2021, the FHI 360; an international non-profit organization working to improve the health and well-being of people in the US and Africa; through the Meeting Targets and Maintaining Epidemic Control ( EPIC )project- fully executed a modification to its cooperative agreement with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) to remove the Protecting Life in Global Health Assistance (PLGHA) standard provision. Accordingly, the requirements of PLGHA are no longer in effect.

Thursday, 04 March 2021 11:25

International sex worker’s rights day.

International sex workers' rights day isn’t just about securing the rights of sex workers it’s about securing human rights. Sex worker's rights are not optional.

What does this day really mean for sex workers in Kenya? In our country sex work is criminalized so you might be surprised to hear that sex workers have rights. Hell, you might think that they don’t have rights. The fact is that everyone has rights, in Kenya sex workers face a variety of human rights abuses, often as a result of the laws and policies, and practices of the very government tasked for our protection.  Sex workers suffer from inappropriate and sometimes illegal policing tactics, including physical and sexual violence, extortion, and false arrest.

21ST FEBRUARY 2021---- It is February, and for many, they would love to call it the month of love because, on 14th February, the world marks Valentine’s Day. For most people, it is a day spent celebrating romance. But for sex workers, Valentine's Day tends to be the opposite. 

Jessica (not her real name), is a 38-year-old sex worker in Nairobi. She says that, contrary to what people might think, February 14th tends to be rather quiet for workers in the sex trade: her clients often see her on the days surrounding Valentine's Day — but rarely the day of — because people are often busy with their partners. They also don’t always have the extra cash, especially now that the effects of Covid-19 restrictions are felt by almost everyone in the economic sector.

Until March 2020, a visit to Kisumu would be incomplete without stopping at Octopus club, a paradise for those who love the company of girls while catching a drink.

The place had an array of beauties that one would sample from and it was turned into a one-stop-shop for those interested in girls and who enjoy twilight activities……it was indeed the face of nightlife in the lakeside city.

It was akin to Nairobi’s Sabina Joy as well as other famous red-light district zones and “sex” was readily available for dozens of men who would throng it to quench their thirst.

Established back in 1978, curtains have finally fallen on Octopus Club, the oldest entertainment facility in Kisumu’s red-light district.

Bottom of Form

The twilight girls who readily offered company, comfort and sweet endings to men who thronged the joint be it for booze or entertainment are nowhere to see.

 “This is the first time in 43 years that we have closed the doors of Octopus. Business has been bad in the last few months and it is not possible to continue running it,” says McTough, the proprietor of the now-defunct club.

A twenty minutes’ drive along the modern Thika superhighway will lead you to Kasarani area and a further ten minutes will bring you to a sprawling Mwiki residential area synonymous with flats for rentals.

Many that live in Mwiki are average earners who commute to the city using matatus or commuter trains that have a stopover in the area.

But whereas many residents of Mwiki would wake up every morning and prepare to go to work in the city, a group of four middle-aged women who have rented a three bedroomed house in the area would be going to their phones and computers to look for clients, who will in one way or another find their way to the house, or direct them where to meet to have sex or provide escort services.

The women are sex workers who have gone digital.

The world’s oldest profession is adopting a new business model; street-walkers are heading to the information highway.

Mary (not her real name) has agreed to share her experience with me on one condition, that I don’t expose her or take any pictures of her or the house she lives in with her co sex workers.

She tells me she hails from Siaya County and her parents know that she works in a big office in Nairobi since she drives a fairly good car and she affords life’s luxuries that would otherwise be associated with those who are employed and earn good salaries.

By BHESP Team

NAIROBI, 18TH JANUARY 2020.

Bar Hostess Empowerment and Support Programme (BHESP) today teamed up with Frontline AIDS, a charity organization that supports persons living with HIV, to donate dry foodstuff to cushion sex workers who are considered a vulnerable group against the biting economic effects of Covid-19.

The contribution which comprised relief packages containing maize flour, wheat flour, sugar, cooking oil, and green grams – is part of the nutrition support rendered to persons living with HIV in support of the national response against the corona pandemic.

While presenting the donations, ART champion and care manager at BHESP Ms. Lydia Otiso indicated that over 50 families have benefitted directly from the nutrition support and close to 2000 persons of the broader cohort receiving prevention services have benefitted from the distribution of Personal Protective Gears. “As a champion, I am greatly appreciative of the motorbike that this Frontline AIDS grant enabled us to acquire and so the effectiveness of differentiated care service delivery for our ART cohort can be increased for retention and for the greater objective of achieving the 95-95-95 goal of treatment prevention,” says Lydia.

ADAPTED FROM AIDSMAP

A recent study published by AIDSMAP and analyzed locally by different research firms from data collected at seven different Sex Workers Outreach Programs in Nairobi from a sample of 33,560 women indicates that the number testing positive for HIV has dropped by more than two-thirds between 2008 and 2017.

While no single intervention can be identified as to the underlying cause in the decreasing numbers, it suggests that increasing HIV awareness, testing and treatment in Kenya are reaching this population of women, despite the criminalization of sex work. It is estimated that female sex workers in Kenya are almost ten times more likely to contract HIV than non-sex workers, so they are a key population to target.

The clinics use peer support and outreach workers to recruit female sex workers. When signing up to use the clinic’s services, each woman was offered an HIV test, which was used to monitor rates of HIV. Further information was collected by analyzing questionnaires that the women were asked to complete when attending. Only 78% of the women completed this information, as it was not mandatory for enrolment into the clinic.

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Mirema Stone Groove

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