Kenya has a major gap in reaching out to mobile populations along transport corridors with eﬀective HIV/STI prevention, treatment, care and support programmes. This is according to a HIV/ AIDS strategy launched today by the National AIDS Control Council (NACC) and the National AIDS and STI Control Programme (NASCOP) and facilitated by the International Organization for Migration (IOM).
The research carried out by NASCOP and NACC and guided by the Kenya National AIDS Strategic Plan of 2009-2013 notes that due to the migratory nature of their occupation, truck drivers tend to have multiple sexual partners, fuelling the spread of the epidemic and are twice likely to be infected by HIV infection as workers in ‘low-risk’ occupations. They also serve as bridge populations linking with the general population.
Transport corridors, deﬁned as highways, waterways, and border points that come together in the transport of people and goods, are areas of high HIV prevalence and a primary risk environment for these key populations.
Although prevalence has shown a relative decline since the beginning of the HIV and AIDS epidemic, by the end of 2011, HIV prevalence stood at 6.2% among individuals aged between 15 and 49 years of age. Currently more than1.6 million people in Kenya are living with HIV and women represent 59% of those infected.
Previous studies indicate that at least 15% of new infections in Kenya are attributed to men who have sex with men (15%); 4 % injecting drug users; 14 % sex workers. A separate study also found that truckers, sex workers and members of the fishing community have higher infection rates than the national average. This population is therefore considered ‘drivers’ of the HIV and AIDS epidemic.
“The national strategy on HIV and AID & STI programming along transport corridors in Kenya” aims to benefit truckers, female sex workers, and men who have sex with men along with the communities they interact with such as border officials, police officers and the general population.
The strategy will further provide a national framework within which HIV programming can be realized by various stakeholders providing HIV services along the transport corridors in Kenya.
Speaking at the launch in Nairobi, IOM’s Regional Director for East and Horn of Africa, Ashraf El Nour lauded the Government for taking great steps in promotion of health for the mobile populations as they are an important key target population for HIV and AIDS activities in many countries all over the world.
“IOM is well placed to assist stakeholders in Kenya to collaborate in designing a more comprehensive, targeted, and cohesive response under the leadership of the National AIDS Control Council, National AIDS and STI Control Programme, and other stakeholders,” he added.
Sex trade along transport corridors take place in bars and lodges. Poverty and lack of opportunity are compounded by factors such as high frequency of multiple concurrent partners and inconsistency of condom use to create this risk environment and make them vulnerable to the transmission of HIV/ AIDS.