Sex workers project Kenya

We believe that the end of AIDS is possible if there is more focus on key populations. Our project in Kenya addresses barriers faced by the sex workers community related to their sexual and reproductive health and rights. Driven by community champions, we work to realize a more supportive environment for sex workers; strong sex worker-led civil society; decreasing violence, stigma and discrimination; and increased access to rights-based and comprehensive services.

One in four female sex workers experience physical or sexual violence

Though Kenya is the regional trade and finance hub for East Africa, it is classed by the World Bank as a low-income country and has a low ranking on the Human Development Index (HDI). There are approximately 1,500,000 people living with HIV in Kenya. Across the 47 counties in the country, HIV prevalence ranges from 2% or less to as high as 26%. HIV prevalence is 29% for female sex workers.

The Kenya National AIDS Strategic Plan includes commitments to provide services tailored to the sex worker community. Furthermore, both the National Aids and STI Control Programme and the National Aids Control Council allow for sex worker advocates to inform the national HIV response. However, outside provision of services, there has been very little progress on larger contextual issues affecting key populations, such as descriminalisation or controlling violence and abuse perpetuated by police. Almost 1 in 4 female sex workers experience physical or sexual violence.

Sex workers claim a right-based HIV and SRHR response

Bridging the Gaps works with a Theory of Change approach. A Theory of Change is a description of a list of events that is expected to lead to a particular desired outcome. It is a visualization how change is believed to happen. In 2016, representatives of the sex worker community developed a specified Theory of Change that consists of short-,medium, and long term outcomes. The Theory of Change describes how we plan to realize a more supportive environment for sex workers; strong sex worker-led civil society; decreasing violence, stigma and discrimination; and increased access to rights-based and comprehensive services.

Through innovation and by building on previous work, we will strengthen civil society organisations’ ability to:

1. We facilitate community development

  • Collaborating with other sex worker-led organizations.
  • Supporting and improving organisations as learning centres and developing curriculum.
  • Planning an annual HIV champion day for male sex workers.
  • Organizing monthly creative spaces.
  • Identifying, mapping and recruiting new sex worker-led groups and organisations.
  • Conducting sex worker-led needs-assessment to identify priorities for capacity building.
  • Building capacity of sex worker-led organisations.
  • Supporting sex worker groups to form and register sex worker-led organisaitons.

2. We advocate for the continuously strengthening of services and upholding human rights

  • Advocating against violence in national policies and plans on HIV and gender based violence.
  • Documenting, referring and maintaining cases of sexual violence.
  • Advocating for legal and policy reforms.
  • Sensitising community leaders and members. 
  • Advocating for affordable confidential , respectful healthcare services for sex workers including area chiefs, district officers, women’s rights activists and youth officers.
  • Advocating to promote condom use and end the practise of law officials using condom as evidence to arrest sex workers.
  • Organizing annual social events and campaigns.
  • Conducting research and documentation of laws and by laws criminalizing sex work.
  • Developing national and regional human rights materials that address issues related to sex workers rights and health.

3. We deliver inclusive, rights-based and gender sensitive services

  • Sensitising and training healthcare providers to provide sex worker friendly services.
  • Building the capacity of 50 Ministry of Health staff (at the referral sites) to offer sex work friendly services.
  • Sensitising clinic staff on sex work issues in different level hospitals.
  • Working with clinics to establish weekend hours, evening, mobile and fixed time-location satellite services to serve emergency.
  • Training paralegals in sex worker communities.
  • Strengthening health referral and linkages systems together with NASCOP and Ministry of Health. 
  • Providing comprehensive right based services that meet the needs of sex workers.
  • Offering more accessible services through outreach at the hotspots.
  • Holding individual and group health sessions.

4. We foster global and in-country process and partnerships that reinforce results

  • Training and sensitising police staff to foster police accountability.
  • Sensitising managers of sex work establishments, police, religious leaders and local government officials.
  • Partnering with organization that work on human rights issues.
  • Collaborating with other key populations organizations , civil society organizations in activities promoting human rights.
  • Co-implementing the Kenya Aids strategic framework.

Our partners

Our project builds on the strong advocacy work of our partners KESWA, Hoymas, North Star Alliance, NEPHAK and Bar Hostess to put sex workers’ health issues on the political agenda and get them included in national plans. Their work is internationally supported by Aidsfonds.

Our other projects in Kenya

Bridging the Gaps also has a LGBT people project and a people who use drugs project in Kenya