DISEASE PREVALENCE

HIV campaigns not reaching sex workers, gay people, transgender

Condom use for men who have sex with men remains disappointingly low at 78 per cent

In Summary
  • HIV prevalence is high at 29 per cent among female sex workers, male sex workers 26 per cent, MSM 18 per cent, and people who inject drugs19 per cent.
  • Recent estimates say there are 207,000 female sex workers in Kenya, 51,000 MSM, 20,000 PWID and 6,000 transgender people in Kenya.
Sex workers
Sex workers
Image: FILE

Kenya continues to struggle in reaching key populations who are at the highest risk of HIV.

These include sex workers, men who have sex with men, transgender people and those who inject drugs.

As a result, these groups account for a third of all new HIV infections in Kenya although they constitute a tiny portion of the population.

A new study estimates HIV campaigns have only reached five per cent of transgender people, 73 per cent of female sex workers and 82 per cent of men who have sex with men, based on the current estimated populations.

The study, “A decade and beyond: learnings from HIV programming with underserved and marginalised key populations in Kenya,” is published in the Journal of the International Aids Society.

HIV prevalence remains high at 29 per cent among female sex workers,  26 per cent male sex workers, MSM (18 per cent), and people who inject drugs (19 per cent).

Transgender people have an estimated HIV prevalence of 39.9 per cent.

The national HIV prevalence is about 5.6 per cent, according to the National Aids and STI Control Programme.

“Despite governmental support for the HIV prevention programmes, Kenyan national and county laws continue to criminalise selling sex, same‐sex relationships, drug use and drug possession to date, raising structural barriers for key populations to accessing health services,” says Helgar Musyoki of Nascop, in the study she co-authored with five others.

New HIV infections in Kenya fell from 75,000 among adults in 2010 to 41,416 in 2019, according to the Ministry of Health.

The Nascop study shows geographical and gender diversity in infections. Self‐reported HIV prevalence among female sex workers ranges from 49 per cent in Homa Bay to 16 per cent in Mombasa; female drug injecting people have 36 per cent prevalence compared to 17 per cent for male drugs users.

The authors also note there is currently no data on HIV prevalence in prisons.

“The key population programme must scale up programmes for transgender people, by adopting the national guidelines and for people in prison settings in partnership with National Prison Services, with urgency,” they say.

Nascop and the National AIDS Control Council jointly lead the national key population programme in Kenya.

Recent estimates say there are 207,000 female sex workers in Kenya, 51,000 MSM, 20,000 people who inject drugs and 6,000 transgender people in Kenya.

The study shows interventions in these populations actually produce commendable results.

For instance, 92 per cent of female sex workers now report condom use  and the use of sterile equipment among PWID is at 88 per cent.

Condom use for MSM remains disappointingly low at 78 per cent.

-Edited by SKanyara