Ann Sokoto @annsokoto and Peter Ngila @peterngilanjeri
Turkana and Kisumu have the highest number of young female sex workers aged between 15 and 24 years, experts from Elizabeth Glaser Paediatric Aids Foundation (EGPAF) and a key populations specialist have said.
With the two counties recording high numbers of female sex workers below 24 years, the burden of HIV among sex workers in Turkana accounts for 13 per cent, which is four times higher than the general population.
Speaking at the 2018 HIV Prevention Care and Treatment Scientific Conference in Nairobi, Rose Mutai of EGPAF, said the majority of female sex workers (72 per cent) in the county are below 24 years. With over 2,000 sex workers in the county, 123 are between 15 and 19 years; while those of 20 and 24 years total to 190.
The HIV burden in the county is 8.5 per cent, with female sex workers accounting for 13 per cent of this data.
“Oil exploration in Lokichar, mobility that has been created by the Kitale-Lodwar-Lokichoggio highway and fishing in Longech are the major factors promoting sex work in the county.
Longech island, a part of Turkana county, records the highest HIV- positive cases due to low condom use among sex workers and fish traders in the community. This calls for a need to allocate health resources for young people in this area,” Mutai said.
Judy Franks, a key population specialist, who has conducted research in Kisumu, says in the county, 33 per cent of female sex workers begin the work before attaining the age of 18 years. According to the sex workers, there is very low use of condoms in their area of work due to factors like; the monetary benefit of not using a condom, alcohol use and violence.
One of the sex workers says: “Going without pays you more than using a condom. Sometimes this forces us not to use one.” While another one says: “At night, even if you scream, nobody would help you, so we are forced to perform sexuual acts. Yes, I can say it was kind of rape.”