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.

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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. 

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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.

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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.

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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.

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