Female sex workers across Kenya who are living with HIV have formed several groups to offer support and assist them economically.
‘SoteTupambazuke’ (Let’s all arise) is one such group based in Kisumu who work together to help each other live positively. It was formed and registered in 2009 to offer support to HIV positive sex workers after the realisation that there was a need to reach out to HIV positive sex workers.
“When I tested HIV positive in 2005, I told myself that I wouldn’t die,” said Sylvia, the chairlady of the group.
In 2010, with the help of KASH, a group that works with sex workers, SoteTupambazuke got funding from AMREF which they used to buy chairs and a tent which they hire to raise funds their group.
They hold health talks every week focusing on behaviour change and offer home based care to their sick counterparts. The group has been trained on table banking, under the Care Kenya program where members make weekly savings, and give loans to each other at low interest rates.
SoteTupambazuke had applied for the Women Enterprise Fund, which they are repaying at no interest. Through these loans, each member of the group runs a business. Sylvia says that these businesses support them and they do not fully depend on sex work for a living. ‘SoteTupambazuke’ aims to buy a plot and build rental businesses premises.
In addition, they have maintained a ‘No condom, No sex’ policy in efforts to fight HIV.
Also in Kisumu, another group, ‘Cool Ladies’ has been formed to cater to female sex workers who provide services to truck drivers on the northern transport corridor linking Kenya to Uganda.
The group holds weekly health talks. They also make referrals and do outreach distributing condoms and lubricants to female and male sex workers.
A UNDP program has provided the group with funding which they have used to set up a thriving salon business. They offer hairdressing training to locals and have employed a male sex worker in their barber shop. They plan to build their capacity and get a proper curriculum for their hairdressing training school. In Nairobi, WaremboSasa (Beauties Now) was formed last year and membership is drawn from female sex workers living positively.