Sep 16, 2011

Dadaab, Kenya: Refugees Turn to Sex Work, Risking HIV Infection


Seventeen year old Hawa* is a sex worker not by choice, but by necessity. She is one of almost 470,000 residents, mostly refugees from Somalia, who live in extremely crowded camps in Dadaab, Kenya. The sex industry in Dadaab is completely in the shadows. Sex workers like Hawa often run kiosks selling various goods, but it is really sex that is for sale. How much does Hawa get for her services? About 200 Kenya shillings (US$2.15). During an interview, Hawa explained that wearing a condom is optional and a choice made by the customer. The fact that condoms are optional provides a strong opportunity for the spread of HIV, the killer disease for which Hawa has never been tested. 

Even though the HIV prevalence rate in the Dadaab region (1%) is significantly less than the national prevalence rate in Kenya (7.4%), there is still a risk of infection. About 90 percent of individuals in Dadaab are aware of HIV, but only 12 percent of those who are sexually active report having ever used a condom. Peer counselors working in youth centers throughout the overcrowded camp seek to promote safe sex practices and try to keep the HIV prevalence rate low in the area.

Life for Mothers is encouraged to see peer education about HIV and safe sex in Dadaab. Such education and awareness has to be scaled-up throughout Kenya as well as surrounding nations to encourage young women to protect themselves and promote safe choices among all members of the population. The work of Life for Mothers will bring life-saving and sustaining education about these topics to vulnerable populations and will empower women to have choices beyond those of Hawa.

* Name changed for privacy

To read the original IRIN article, please click here.

Did you know?

99% of all maternal deaths occur in developing countries.

Source:The World Health Organization (WHO), 2010

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