In Kenya, one in three sex workers is living with HIV. Male sex workers and other men who have sex with men are most affected by the HIV epidemic. Among them, HIV prevalence is nineteen times higher than among the rest of the population. Thanks to the introduction of a highly effective approach, the rate of sex workers who tested positive for HIV has dropped significantly: from 7 per cent in 2015 to 2.7 per cent in 2018. Health Options for Young Men on HIV, AIDS and STIs (HOYMAS), an organisation by and for male sex workers in Kenya, persuaded the Kenyan government to let it open the country’s first ever community-led clinic.
‘One-stop shop’ for male sex workers
The HOYMAS clinic serves as a ‘one-stop shop’ where male sex workers can access all health, social and legal services they need, ranging from HIV testing and treatment, to peer group support and nutritional aid. The successful approach will be further strengthened in the coming years by collaborating with the government in rolling out PrEP use and HIV self-testing among male sex workers. Since HOYMAS opened its doors, over 5,000 male sex workers have been tested for HIV and 571 sex workers have accessed HIV treatment.
We all know that my community is highly affected by the HIV epidemic. HIV prevalence is nineteen times higher among male sex workers and men who have sex with men than among the rest of the population. We reach out to this group with customised HIV services. Providing these much-needed HIV services and other human rights-based services is what motivates me. Every morning, I wake up knowing I will change people’s lives. I wouldn’t like to lose any sex worker to a preventable disease like HIV.
Chuna, one of HOYMAS’ founders
Training for peers
HOYMAS also offers training programmes to enable peers to support and educate sex workers, as well as distribute condoms and lubricants, and refer sex workers to welcoming, accessible and comprehensive services. This community-led and comprehensive approach has contributed to an impressive decrease in the number of sex workers who tested HIV-positive. HOYMAS has expanded its work from one area to seventeen sub-counties, to reach many more underserved sex workers across the country.
Community Advisory Board
A Community Advisory Board closely monitors and evaluates the services offered by HOYMAS. Every month, the Board members meet to assess the clinic’s work and address gaps, like preventing and solving stock-outs.