Kenya needs to reach out more to mobile populations along transport corridors with effective HIV/STI* prevention, treatment, care and support programmes, according to the National AIDS Control Council (NACC) and the National AIDS and STI Control Programme (NASCOP). (STIs are Sexually Transmitted Infections*.)

Research facilitated by IOM, carried out by NASCOP and NACC, and guided by the Kenya National AIDS Strategic Plan of 2009-2013, says 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 and AIDS and STIs as workers in ?low-risk? occupations. They also serve as bridge populations linking the diseases with the general population.

Transport corridors, de?ned as highways, waterways, and border points, are areas of high HIV, AIDS and STI prevalence and a primary risk environment for these mobile populations.

Although HIV prevalence has shown a relative decline since the beginning of the HIV and AIDS epidemic, by the end of 2011 it stood at 6.2% among Kenyans aged between 15 and 49 years of age. Currently more than 1.6 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; 4 % injecting drug users; and 14 % to 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 AIDS and 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, including border officials, police officers and the general population.

The strategy will also provide a national framework within which HIV programming can be realized by various stakeholders providing HIV services along Kenya?s transport corridors.

Speaking at the launch in Nairobi, IOM?s Regional Director for East and the Horn of Africa, Ashraf El Nour, praised the government for taking great steps in promotion of health for mobile populations, as they are an important key target population for HIV and AIDS activities in many countries worldwide.

?IOM is well placed to help 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 noted.

The sex trade along transport corridors mainly takes place in bars and lodges. Poverty and lack of opportunity for sex workers are compounded by factors including high frequency of multiple concurrent partners and inconsistency of condom use, which create a very high risk environment.

SOURCE 

International Office of Migration (IOM)

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