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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10th of December 2020 was a normal day for Jacqueline Waithera (not her real name) as she went about her routine of seeking clientele at her usual hot spot on the street of Nairobi, in the Kenyan capital.

Jacqueline is a sex worker and on a good day she can get up to 10 men who part with any amount from KSH 500 to even KSH 5000 shillings depending on the financial capability of the client.

Unknown to Jacqueline, this fateful day was not going to be productive to her and some of her colleagues, she was arrested and thrown into a waiting police van. At this point she knew very well that the little she had already earned would go into paying hefty fines.

She pleaded for mercy from the arresting officers but none would hear her, instead the law enforcers would physically and sexually harass the sex workers in the van and later be confined at the police cells.

  Blog   348   

Every time I see the lawyer on T.V my heart skips a beat, my ulcers rise and I remember the pain of the accident, I relive the pain, the piercing chest pain, my back stuck on the bed, knives poking my body

, stomach on fire, my broken leg shaking in pain, I am drained in sweat, breathing through the mouth, tears rolling but too drained to cry out loud.

 This time the lawyer is being linked to the COVID 19 scandal. It is Thursday, the third week of August and the COVID19 scandal continues to unfold and shock, The Coronavirus that was first reported in China in late 2019 found its way to Kenya a few months later. Our Government, like many others, took measures to contain its spread. Medical supplies and protective equipment, a significant amount coming from donors, were procured and distributed through our government medical supply authority, KEMSA.

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“Times have changed, we need to acknowledge the fact that our kids are already engaging in sex”, says Wanjiku* who has a teenage daughter. With the closure of schools, the number of teenagers engaging in sex has risen.

Cynthia, a young mother to tell us her story; “In March, when schools were closed, we were excited that we would be spending the remaining time of the term at home. During the first month of the pandemic, my parents were quite strict on me and my brother moving around so we had no other choice but to stay at home.

After a couple of weeks, they were lenient and allowed us to leave the house but not later than 6 pm due to the curfew that had been imposed. During this time, I met this man. He was really friendly and he would take me back home at the end of the day. He told me he was still in university.

  Blog   2028   

Finally, the murderer of Peninah Wanjiru a member of BHESP has been found. David Megwi was arrested after the murder of yet another woman, same time exactly one year later, he had hired street boys to dump body parts in an estate dumpsite. The boys were arrested and led the police to David. We would like to remind the police of another murder same date the year before Peninnah's murder, same style, same dumping of the body in sacks. The victim was Cyprosa. There are many others.

  Blog   699   
HomeBlogBhespWhat African sex workers want

What African sex workers want

What African sex workers want

There are basically three things sex workers desire, and hope for

Rather than looking at the ethical, religious or personal stances on sex work, it is important to first acknowledge that sex work has borne the brunt of a highly stigmatizing society, and one whose sexual conservativeness has often clouded, and looked in aghast as those who freely, consensually, and of course, engage in sex work for money, pleasure or other mutual benefits.

A basic activist definition of sex work is ‘sex work is the exchange of sex, or other sexual services, in exchange for money, gifts, or other sexual services.’ I will not delve into the historical lineage of sex work in Africa, or even map the many ways society and others, has tried to regulate, punish, rehabilitate, and even kill off the sex work profession.

I identify as a sex worker rights activist, and I represent a regional network called the African Sex Workers Alliance (ASWA) that amplifies the voices of, and advocates for the human rights of the diverse community of sex workers living and working in Africa.

To this end, African sex workers have tasked ASWA with the task of creating awareness, while advocating for the recognition of sex work, while also protecting their human rights, and right to freedom from discrimination based on their sexual choices, and work.

Our values

At the heart of this African sex work movement are three fundamental ideals that we strive to ‘preach,’ and promote as critical in our work of representing this diverse community of sex workers, who include male, female, and transgender sex workers. We also include sex workers living with HIV, those who are differently abled, those who use and inject drugs, and those who are refugees, or migrants. Any sex worker living and working in Africa is represented in ASWA.

Acceptance of sex work as work is one of our fundamental values that we promote, and seek to have recognized. This value presupposes the recognition of sex work as a legitimate form of earning money, and other benefits accrued from it. As a form of work, or labor, sex workers are therefore entitled to equal and fairly compensated pay for their work, as well as freedom to make meaningful financial decisions with their work, as well as entitlement to benefits such as medical care insurance, banking facilities, and other economic emoluments.


Another key value is our opposition to all forms of criminalisation and other legal oppression of sex work, including sex workers, clients, third parties*, families, partners and friends. The term ‘third parties’ includes managers, brothel keepers, receptionists, maids, drivers, landlords, hotels that rent rooms to sex workers and anyone else who is seen as facilitating sex work. There is a crucial distinction between these two terms that is frequently blurred in the debate on sex work. Here, I draw your attention to the difference between legalisation and decriminalization of sex work. Under legalisation, sex work is controlled by the Government or other State authorities, and is legal only under certain state-specified conditions e.g. mandatory registration, or HIV and STIs testing, and even taxation. However, decriminalization essentially involves the removal of all laws against any form of sex work or those that touch on sex work. Thus, we must remove punitive offences such as vagrancy, loitering with the intent to commit a crime, solicitation, which are often used to arrest, prosecute, and further harass sex workers.

Save us from our Saviours!

Sex work is diverse. Sex workers are diverse. Thus, our third key take-away is the self-organisation and self-determination of sex workers. Here, I take issue with the many ‘saviours’ that have tried to rehabilitate, or offer alternative means of income to sex worker with no tangible results. Often, these ‘saviours’ ignore the fact that sex works do not need cash hand outs or sawing machines, or even the rite of Baptism, but rather safer working conditions, protection from violence and arrest, as well as the freedom from stigma, and equal pay for their services, and work.

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