Alarm as HIV-positive sex workers stop taking ARVs

By , K24 Digital
On Wed, 1 Jul, 2020 14:32 | 2 mins read
A representational image of commercial sex workers. PHOTO/COURTSY

At least 100 commercial sex workers in Mombasa have stopped taking their antiretroviral drugs (ARVs), leaving agencies and NGOs fighting the spread of HIV concerned.

Nkoko Iju Africa, a Mombasa-based NGO, says in the last three months, they have seen a significant reduction in the number of sex workers who usually take ARVs from the organization.

The NGO’s Executive Director, Marilyne Laini, told K24 Digital that the sex workers have stopped taking ARVs because most of them lack food after their “business” was affected by the closure of entertainment joints and the implementation of the dusk-to-dawn curfew.

“We are worried that the sex workers who have stopped taking ARVs would have higher viral loads, consequently increasing chances of infecting their clients,” said Laini.

“At least 100 commercial sex workers, whom we had registered for our ARVs programme, have stopped taking the drugs,” she added.

Laini says one of the requirements of taking ARVs is that a carrier must eat well before taking the drugs.

“With the current economic hardship wrought by COVID-19, most sex workers cannot afford three meals a day. And, because the drugs could leave you drowsy if you take them on an empty stomach, most sex workers have resorted to abandoning their prescriptions,” said Laini.

The Nkoko Iju Africa executive director has urged both levels of government to put up a kitty that would look into the welfare of commercial sex workers in Kenya during the coronavirus crisis.

Nkoko Iju Africa is a native Pokomo name meaning High Voice of Africa.

The NGO says on its online platform that it is an independent nonprofit making organization that was established with a purpose of “dealing with ethnic imbalance that have significant impact on the key populations, the lives of teenage mothers transiting to sex work, sex workers, LGBT sex workers at the grassroots level with a vision of improving their human rights status”.