Mental Health: HIV Risk Reduction among Key and Vulnerable Populations

by Amref Health Africa

The Turkana County Health Senior Management team was briefed about the collaboration between Imarisha Jamii and LVCT Health in scaling up mental health services for Key and Vulnerable Populations (KVP) through the USAID MiCARE project.

The MiCARE project will train healthcare workers to assist this population’s mental health, which is crucial due to higher-risk behaviours increasing HIV risk.

Key and Vulnerable Populations are groups at increased risk of the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) due to specific higher-risk behaviours that are not necessarily connected with epidemic type or local context. In Kenya, the KVP comprises female, male, and transgender sex workers, men who have sex with men, transgender and people who inject drugs.

In Turkana County, through the Imarisha Jamii project, over 4,500 Key and Vulnerable Populations have so far been reached with HIV/AIDS preventive packages ranging from behavioural, biomedical and structural interventions. These include peer education, information, risk assessment and reduction, comprehensive condom and lubricant programming, PrEP and PEP, STI Screening and prevention, and HIV care and treatment.

It was evident that the Key and Vulnerable Populations are a critical consideration in the fight against HIV/ADS in the county, as highlighted by Dr Gilchrist Lokoel, the Chief Officer for Medical Services at the Turkana County Ministry of Health and Sanitation.

“We need to look at Key Populations with sobriety and give them the attention they deserve in the fight against HIV. Their key consideration will help in eliminating HIV/AIDS in Turkana.” He stated.

He went ahead and acknowledged the role of health workers in empowering individuals with the requisite knowledge to make safe decisions as far as their sexual orientation is concerned and ensure safety for both parties involved.

Key issues faced by the key and vulnerable population include stigma, harassment and violence perpetrated against them, gender inequalities, and criminalization of behaviours associated with key populations. However, in Turkana County, the most common challenge is stigma, as suggested by the Director of Preventive and Promotive Services, Dr. Bonaventure Ameyo.

“The Key Populations face much stigma within the society. I therefore urge implementing partners to embrace community-led approaches to reduce the cases and increase knowledge among the people.” Dr. Ameyo said.

The USAID Imarisha Jamii and LVCT Health collaboration aims to scale up mental health services for Key and Vulnerable Populations (KVP) through the USAID MiCARE project and access to an all-inclusive healthcare service provision for the Key Population.

Author: Kevin Majoni – Communication Lead – The USAID Imarisha Jamii

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