Do not fear condoms, Female Sex Workers urge male clients | Testimonials

Do not fear condoms, Female Sex Workers urge male clients
Do not fear condoms, Female Sex Workers urge male clients Sindo, where Lilian has been a sex worker since 2004, is a small rural commercial center along the shores of Lake Victoria whose wheels of life are greased by the booming fishing business. The money circulation is very high along the beaches mainly because for a long time, commercial banks and other financial institutions have kept off such like places. So the huge sums made from the fish trade is largely used up within the area.
I meet Lilian on a Thursday morning as she strides into the Impact Research and Development Organization (IRDO’s) Drop in Center (DiCE) situated just behind the Sub County Hospital. From her demeanor, I am imagining two things: Business must have been real good and that the DiCE must be her second home. It turns out I am right on both thoughts.
After exchanging pleasantries with everyone, we settle down inside a room known as a Safe Space. She offers, “I have been in this business for the last 15 years. If it were not for IRDO, I would most likely be gone by now.” She says she joined the IRDO program in 2015 when they introduced services targeting Female Sex Workers in the area.
Lilian has a husband and two grown up children. Though the father of her children has another family back in her matrimonial home, she tells me her place as the Mikai (First wife) is respected at home. She visits her home once in a while and “I am even getting ready to go over for Christmas” she says.
“Every time I go to my village, I have to struggle convincing my husband to use a condom. He knows the work that I do here and I would not want to put both our lives in danger by having unprotected sex” she says. If only men could embrace condoms just like they love sex, this work would be very safe for all of us” she cheekily, but firmly adds.
As a Peer Educator engaged by IRDO, Lilian has the double duty of making her money in the sex trade as well as literally look after her colleagues in the field. She is actively on ARVs and is always supplied with both male and female condoms for her protection. At the DiCE, Lilian and her work mates are also given Family Planning services and round the clock clinical services including screening for cervical cancer.
Our talk is disrupted by the arrival of Beatrice Atieno, a 32 year old mother of one who has since separated from her husband. Abito, as everyone calls her here, has just arrived from duty and appears too glad to be at the DiCE.
Just like Lilian, she doubles up as a Peer Educator, and so has the other responsibility of making sure her colleagues also share in the services offered by IRDO.
“IRDO has really been of help to us here. Apart from the clinical services, physical violence targeting sex workers has reduced considerably” says Beatrice.
Veronica Awino Ng’ayo, the clinician in charge of the DiCE says they heavy rely on the Peer Educators to reach out to the many FSWs carrying out their trade in Sindo and the neighborhood. She says that the area has a large number of FSWs and the fact that there is no stigma around this Key Population has made it easy to contain and control the effects of HIV/AIDS. “The FSW trade thrives here mostly because of the fishing industry, we are reaching out to them” she says.
Miles away at the Mbita DiCE, Moses Oyoo, the clinician in charge agrees with his Sindo counterpart. He says that the FSW community is large along the shores of Lake Victoria within the main land and the islands. The work that the Peer Educators do is complimented by a dedicated team of counsellors who literally walk around the hot spots reaching out to the KPs.
“Other than the main land, we have many hot spots on the islands. We have outreaches in the islands every so often. As IRDO, we hope to reach out to all Key Populations with our interventions” he says.
Key Populations (KP) is one of the programs undertaken by IRDO. Its intervention targets people who are at the highest risk of infection from HIV. Such KPs include Female Sex Workers (FSWs), Men having Sex with Men (MSMs) and People Who Inject Drugs (PWIDS).
The program is carried out in Siaya and Homa Bay Counties.