30 Nov 2015

Human Rights Count for key populations with HIV

New report shows Kenyan sex workers living with HIV face persistent human rights violations.

Today on World AIDS Day 2015 the report of the research “Speaking Out: Personal testimonies of rights violations experienced by sex workers in Kenya” is released at the International Conference on AIDS and STIs in Africa (ICASA) in Harare, Zimbabwe.

The report is based on interviews with sex workers living with HIV in six counties across Kenya (Nairobi, Mombasa, Kiambu, Machakos, Kisumu). The experiences these women shared reveal a disturbing pattern of violations of the rights of sex workers to healthcare and equality before the law.

Almost half of those interviewed could not access their ARVs while in custody for example. A sex worker from Kiambu county said:

Yes I was aware of my HIV status when I was arrested but I didn’t dare ask for a chance to send for my medicine as I did not want to disclose my status to them. I stayed for the whole week without medication.”

Phelister Abdalla, Country Coordinator of the Kenya Sex Workers Alliance said the findings did not come as a surprise:

“Sadly we regularly see examples of sex workers rights being abused. They are discriminated against and treated as second-class citizens by healthcare workers and law enforcement officers. For those sex workers who are also living with HIV, the discrimination is even worse and we call on the Kenyan government to take action to uphold our constitutional rights.”

Nelson Otwoma, Executive Director of the National Empowerment Network for Persons Living with HIV/AIDS (NEPHAK) argued:

“We know that human rights violations against people living with HIV including key populations is holding back the Kenyan HIV response. We stand with our partners to ensure that the new Kenyan AIDS Strategic Framework moves our country towards zero discrimination against all people living with HIV.”

The report is part of a community led evidence and advocacy project coordinated by the Global Network of People Living with HIV (GNP+) called Human Rights Count for Key Populations Living with HIV.

Rhon Reynolds, Global Advocacy Manager of GNP+ stated:

 “To progress towards the global target on zero discrimination, countries must adopt a rights-based approach, and urgently respond to the systemic human rights violations against key populations living with HIV as documented in our research.”

The research was coordinated by Global Network of People Living with HIV (GNP+) and led in Kenya by the National Empowerment Network for Persons Living with HIV and AIDS in Kenya (NEPHAK) in collaboration with the Kenya Sex Workers Alliance (KESWA) and Bar Hostess Empowerment and Support Programme (BHESP). The adaptation of the human rights tool for key populations living with HIV was supported by the Bridging the Gaps programme.

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