TAXPAYERS’ SH4B BILL TO BUY DRUGS FOR SEX WORKERS
Kenya: Kenyan taxpayers will have to part with approximately Sh4 billion annually to provide sex workers with a daily HIV and Aids prevention pill.
According to an expert budgetary report prepared for the Government, for every one male or female prostitute, the country will spend about Sh48,667 annually to protect this high risk group from getting infected.
Comparatively, the national free maternity care, one of Jubilee’s flagship programmes, has been allocated Sh4 billion in the current financial year.
Last month, Health Cabinet Secretary James Macharia launched an ambitious Sh1.7 trillion road-map aimed at eliminating HIV and Aids by 2030.
Among other revolutionary proposals to achieve the target, the road-map suggests that high risk groups such as prostitutes, prisoners and injecting drug users should be provided with a daily HIV and Aids prevention pill.
The relatively new approach, medically referred to as pre-exposure prophylaxis (Prep), is a process in which healthy people at high risk of infection swallow a daily single pill called Truvada to keep the virus away.
The new budget prepared by the US-funded Health Policy Project and the National Aids & STI Control Programme (Nascop) coincided with the launch of the road-map.
The pill will be provided through the Sex Worker Outreach Programme (Swop) currently running six clinics within Nairobi County. With its main clinic along Keekorok Road in downtown Nairobi, Swop is run by the universities of Nairobi and Manitoba, Canada.
Swop clinics provide services specifically for sex workers using peer-led recruitment with an established incentive scheme of Sh100 per client introduced.
“This is important because it promotes client retention and uptake of services among sex workers,” says the budgetary document.
From 2008 to 2011, Swop clinics are said to have handled approximately 20,717 visits by sex workers, including 340 male prostitutes.
Titled ‘Cost of Providing Oral Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis to Prevent HIV Infection Among Sex Workers in Kenya,’ the road-map says the estimates used are based on population size for all regions.
“The cost for male prostitutes is based on population size estimates for all provinces except North Eastern Province due to the lack of data,” it reads in part.
If all eligible female prostitutes are reached, the budget indicates it will cost Sh3.6 billion annually, while reaching all eligible male sex workers will cost an additional cost of Sh291 million for the same period.
The budget does not go into the complex identification of the actual number of prostitutes or drug injectors but a national census published in March shows there are 138,420 female prostitutes in the country.
However, about 17 per cent of the number are infected and will not get the pill since it is only for those who are HIV-negative.
Other proposals made by the CS in the road-map include giving the groups cash incentives or linking them with micro-lenders to get them off the streets.
The team collected the information from January to February, and June to August last year from Swop clinic financial records and asset registers.