Sex Worker Rights Advocates’ Community of Learning

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Welcome! Here you can learn Advocacy Tactics used successfully by advocates for sex workers’ rights, get Documentation Tools you can use in your campaigns, and get to know Member Organizations active in the field to learn more about their victories and challenges in human rights advocacy projects.

This community is supported by the Open Society Public Health Program

Survivors Organization members protesting marking.END VIOLENCE AGAINST SEX WORKERS RIGHTS.
Survivors Organization members protesting marking.END VIOLENCE AGAINST SEX WORKERS RIGHTS.

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Why Document Human Rights Violations?

There are many reasons why people document human rights violations. In rare cases, documenting violations and exposing them to the public can on its own put an end to abusive practices. More often, however, documentation is only part of a larger effort to end abuses. In addition, it may take years and a combination of efforts to put a stop to an abuse altogether. Advocacy efforts based on the evidence gathered through documentation should therefore identify interim goals that are realistic to achieve and that contribute in a meaningful way to creating the conditions necessary to eventually put a stop to abuse.

It is therefore important for people who document violations to be clear about what specific changes they seek, and to be realistic about what they are capable of changing. The specific changes that result from documentation are referred to as outcomes. Outcomes should be designed to respond to particular problems that documentation seeks to solve and should be targeted at particular actors. Once these problems and outcomes are identified, the documentation process typically involves the following steps:

  • Designing the documentation methodology
    (this differs according to the advocacy and intended audience)
    • Collecting data
    • Data analysis and report-writing
    • Targeted advocacy

Common Human Rights Violations Experienced by Sex Workers

The Open Society Public Health Program has developed a clear and simple guide that pairs common violations experienced by sex workers with relevant provisions of major human rights treaties.

The guide, entitled Common Human Rights Violations Experienced by Sex Workers, explains briefly how human rights treaties are enforced and lists some of the most important enforcement mechanisms.  It also provides a key that sex workers’ rights advocates can use to determine which rights protected by international law have been violated when sex workers have certain kinds of experiences.  For instance, when a sex worker is arbitrarily arrested or detained, his or her right to liberty and security of person is violated and he or she may also experience violation of the right to equality and non-discrimination, the right to freedom from torture and cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment, and the right to a fair trial. The guide lists these rights along with the relevant provisions of international treaties that are violated when these rights are not respected.

The purpose of the document is to make clear the connection between abusive acts commonly experienced by sex workers and international rights guarantees. By referencing the guide, sex workers’ rights advocates can present the experiences of sex workers in terms that international treaty bodies created to enforce human rights law can understand and take action on.

Documentation Tools

Rights groups can use a range of tools to document violations committed against sex workers. Here you will find examples of questionnaires that sex worker advocacy groups have developed to ensure that the way they engage with sex workers about their experiences is respectful and consistent, and results in the collection of clear and relevant data that can be used in reports or other advocacy materials. You will also find materials that describe the connection between advocacy and documentation, and share advice about the most relevant and effective targets for evidence-based advocacy projects.

For more information about the role of documentation in advocacy, see our Why Document Human Rights Violations Guide.

International and regional human rights mechanisms exist to implement human rights treaties and monitor governments’ compliance with international standards for human rights. By submitting testimony to these bodies, advocates link documentation and advocacy to achieve change. Learn more about alerting human rights bodies to rights violations.

For information about appropriate terminology to use in documentation reports, see this glossary of terms related to sexual health and rights.

Resource Guides Advocacy Tactics

Advocacy tactics are specific actions that groups take to achieve their strategic goals. These tactics are the means by which groups achieve their advocacy objectives to improve the situation for sex workers and gain greater respect for sex workers’ fundamental human rights. Sex worker groups have employed a range of advocacy tactics to forward the cause of sex worker rights. Here you will find examples from letter writing campaigns, NGO shadow reports exposing rights violations, NGO advocacy reports aimed at bringing about concrete legislative and policy changes, and real life examples of groups using strategic litigation as an advocacy tactic.

Member Organizations

We are working together to end human rights violations against sex workers.

Bar Hostess Support and Empowerment Program (BHSEP), Kenya

Center for Rights Education and Awareness (CREAW), Kenya

Survivors Organization Busia. Kenya

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Healthy Options Project Skopje (HOPS) and the Coalition for Protection and Promotion of Sexual and Health Rights of Marginalized Communities (the “Sexual and Health Rights Coalition”), Macedonia

Jazas, Serbia

Keeping Alive Societies’ Hope (KASH), Kenya

Legalife, Ukraine

Sex Workers’ Rights Advocacy Network (SWAN), Central and Eastern Europe and Central Asia

Sex Workers Education and Advocacy Taskforce (SWEAT), South Africa

Tais Plus, Kyrgyzstan

Women’s Legal Center (WLC), Cape Town, South Africa

Resources

This list of resources provides information about recognizing and documenting human rights abuses from organizations that work on a range of human rights issues.  Although not specific to advocacy for the rights of sex workers, these guides, manuals, and organizations provide useful tools for collecting information about abuses and developing creative and effective plans for human rights advocacy.

Guides and Manuals

Advocates for Human Rights and US Human Rights Network: A Practitioner’s Guide to Human Rights Monitoring, Documentation and Advocacy
This manual from Advocates for Human Rights and the US Human Rights Network provides comprehensive information and guidance on how to use a human rights framework to facilitate social change.  The manual includes instructions for every step of the human rights documentation process, including establishing a project and its objectives, setting up and conducting interviews, formulating recommendations, and writing a report.
External Link: A Practitioner’s Guide (English)

Asia Catalyst: Prove It Documenting Rights Abuses Manual
“Prove It” is the first in a three part series of manuals, called “Know It, Prove It, Change It: A Rights Curriculum for Grassroots Groups” which will be published jointly by Thai AIDS Treatment Action Group (TTAG), Korekata AIDS Law Center in China, and Asia Catalyst in the US.  “Prove It” covers such topics as how to plan a research project, obtain informed consent, conduct interviews, and manage post-traumatic stress disorder among interviewees. It comes with a supplement containing detailed lesson plans that activists can use to hold community workshops.
External Link: Prove It Guide (English)

AWID: Reference Tool for Women Rights Defenders
This compilation of resources put together by the Association for Women’s Rights in Development (AWID) lists research materials dealing with the security and protection of defenders, resources that women activists can consult concerning their wellbeing and self-care, manuals dealing with how to document and monitor violations of women’s rights, as well as manuals on the rights and mechanisms available to women human rights defenders at risk. The list also references materials that address specific themes particularly relevant to women defenders, such as sexual orientation and documenting sexual violence by state actors.
External Link: AWID Guide (English)

Equitas Manuals
The Equitas website provides access to manuals on how to conduct human rights education and reports about violations of women’s rights in specific countries.
External link: Equitas Manuals (English)

Front Line Handbook for Human Rights Defenders
The website for Front Line, the International Foundation for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, provides several manuals that provide human rights defenders with knowledge and tools to improve their understanding of security and protection.  Additionally, the “Front Line Handbook for Human Rights Defenders: What protection can EU and Norwegian Diplomatic Missions offer?” summarises the provisions of the EU Guidelines on HRDs and Norwegian guidelines on HRDs. It draws on the results of the EU’s own evaluation of the implementation of its guidelines carried out in the first half of 2006. The handbook details the ways in which the EU and Norway have committed themselves to supporting and protecting human rights defenders. It also makes suggestions to HRDs regarding how they might benefit from these policies.
External links: Front Line Manuals (English); Front Line Manuals (French)

HURIDOCS Manuals
On the website for Human Rights Information and Documentation Systems, International, advocates will find useful manuals, such as, “What is Monitoring?” “What is Documentation?” “Data Analysis for Monitoring Human Rights,” and the “Handbook on Fact-Finding and Documentation of Human Rights Violations.” There is also free HURIDOCS software for use in creating a database for managing information about human rights violations.
External link: HURIDOCS Manuals (English)

IHRA UN Human Rights Systems and Harm Reduction Advocacy Training Package
This training, produced by the International Harm Reduction Association, provides civil society groups with an introduction to human rights concepts, the UN human rights system, and skills required to engage with UN accountability mechanisms.  The training involves a mix of discussions, group work, exercises, and presentations.  IHRA’s training manual and the necessary exercise materials can be found at the link.
External Link: IHRA Training (English)

ILGA-Europe Advocacy Manuals and Documentation Tools
Members of the European Region of the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association have undertaken a series of human rights documentation and advocacy projects regarding abuses against LGBTI people in specific countries and circumstances. ILGA-Europe developed its own handbook in 2008, which covers principles of human rights documentation, interviewing guidelines, advice for report writing, and a sample questionnaire. “Make it Work,” ILGA’s 2010 manual, provides a set of tools, methods, and skills which advocates can use in planning and implementing their advocacy work.  ILGA-Europe has also posted documentation tools and materials useful to activists documenting rights abuses against members of marginalized communities, including guidelines for documentation and examples of interview questions.
External links: ILGA Manuals;  Documentation Tools (English)

Martus
Martus software can be used for creating an encrypted database of rights violations that is backed up on a secure, remote server. The software and instructional publications, developed by the Benetech initiative, are available for free download.
External link: http://www.martus.org/index.shtml

Open Society Institute Human Rights Documentation and Advocacy: A Guide for Organizations of People Who Use Drugs
This guide aims to help activists recognize human rights abuses that are systematically conducted and condoned by state and non-state actors and silently suffered by people who use drugs. The guidebook focuses on providing activists with the tools necessary to develop a human rights advocacy plan, particularly by documenting abuses against people who use drugs.
External link: Human Rights Documentation and Advocacy: A Guide for Organizations of People Who Use Drugs (English)

Open Society Foundations: An Introduction to the European Human Rights System
The Open Society Foundations has created a brief overview of the European human rights system. The guide describes ways in which civil society groups can participate in European processes to hold states accountable for their compliance with human rights law and provides contact information and useful links to key European institutions.
Internal Link: An Introduction to the European Human Rights System (English)

UN Secretary-General’s Database on Violence Against Women
The Secretary General’s online database on violence against women is easy to use and contains primary source information about conditions women face in specific countries. It also includes a good practices section that directs visitors to examples of legislative reform and NGO projects designed to counter violence against women. The purpose of the database is to encourage the exchange of information and ideas about policies, services, and other measures to tackle violence against women.
External Link: UN Secretary-General’s Database on Violence Against Women (English)

Tactical Tech: Transforming Data into Images for Advocacy
Drawing By Numbers, a website created by the Tactical Technology Collective, is a collection of software tools and advice that organizations can use to turn information about human rights abuses into charts, maps, pictures diagrams and other visual instruments that can be used in advocacy, strategic planning, public education or training. Having something visual to present to audiences can be an effective means of convincing people of the importance of a problem and that you have the best solution. Information graphics are also useful in making large amounts of data or evidence easier to understand.

Tactical Tech worked with two sex-worker collectives in India and Cambodia to explore how data visualization could be used in advocacy campaigns for sex workers’ rights. They’ve published a write-up, the first in a series documenting the project, which explores how they collected data, analyzed it, crafted a message, and turned the information gathered into compelling visual evidence to present to a target audience.

The write-up of this case study is just one example of how organizations can use the data they collect as evidence in their advocacy campaigns. The website offers online manuals, toolkits, software and tutorials for organizations to use in crafting their own visual products using their own information about rights abuses.
External Link: Drawing by Numbers (English)
External Link: Sex worker voices: Documenting violations in India (English)

World Health Organization Guidelines on Conducting Research on Violence Against Women
These guidelines provide instructions on creating safeguards to make sure that the research participants are protected.
External Link: Guidelines on Conducting Research Against Violence Against Women (English, .pdf)

Organizations

Open Society Foundations
The Open Society Foundations work to build vibrant and tolerant democracies whose governments are accountable to their citizens. To achieve this mission, the Foundations seek to shape public policies that assure greater fairness in political, legal, and economic systems and safeguard fundamental rights. The Foundations have supported a number of sex worker organizations’ projects to document abuses and advocate for human rights.

Tactical Technology Collective
Tactical Tech is an international NGO helping human rights advocates use information, communications and digital technologies to maximise the impact of their advocacy work. Tactical Tech provides advocates with guides, tools, training and consultancy to help them develop the skills and tactics they need to increase the impact of their campaigning.

Women’s Link
Women’s Link Worldwide is an international NGO that provides technical assistance to women’s rights groups working strategically within the courts to promote gender equality through the development and implementation of human rights standards.  Women’s Link assists advocates in using international human rights law in national cases and bringing cases to regional and international tribunals.

 

Sex Workers and HIV/AIDS

Sex workers, along with other key affected populations (KAPs) such as men who have sex with men (MSM) and people who inject drugs (PWID), are often considered at risk of HIV. UNAIDS defines sex workers as: Female, male and transgender adults and young people who receive money or goods in exchange for sexual services, either regularly or occasionally. Sex work varies between and within countries and communities. Sex work may vary in the degree to which it is more or less “formal” or organized, and in the degree to which it is distinct from other social and sexual relationships and types of sexual-economic exchange. 1 Although sex workers are one of the groups most affected by HIV, they are also one of the groups most likely to respond well to HIV prevention campaigns. Proof of this can be seen in countries such as Cambodia, the Dominican Republic, India and Thailand, where reductions in national HIV prevalence have been helped by initiatives targeting sex workers and their clients. – See more at: http://www.avert.org/sex-workers-and-hivaids.htm#sthash.qA4pe8Al.dpuf

Social and legal factors

Sex workers are often stigmatised, marginalised and criminalised by the societies in which they live, and in various ways, these factors can contribute to their vulnerability to HIV.

Even though sex work is at least partially legal in many countries, the law rarely protects sex workers. Around the world, there is a severe lack of legislation and policies protecting sex workers who may be at risk of violence from both state and non-state actors such as law enforcement, partners, family members and their clients. 11

For example, a sex worker who is raped will generally have little hope of bringing charges against their attacker. The lack of protection in such cases leaves sex workers open to abuse, violence and rape, creating an environment, which can facilitate HIV transmission. 12

Non-governmental organisations report that almost two thirds of the countries they work in have laws that make it difficult for them to work with sex workers. 13 In some countries, police use the possession of condoms as evidence that somebody is involved in sex work, further impeding sex workers’ efforts to protect themselves.

– See more at: http://www.avert.org/sex-workers-and-hivaids.htm#sthash.qA4pe8Al.dpuf

Sexually Transmitted Diseases Overview (STDs)

Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs, venereal diseases) are among the most common infectious diseases in Africa today. STDs are sometimes referred to as sexually transmitted infections, since these conditions involve the transmission of an infectious organism between sex partners. More than 20 different STDs have been identified, and about 19 million men and women are infected each year in the Africa, according to the CDC (2010). Depending on the disease, the infection can be spread through any type of sexual activity involving the sex organs, the anus, or the mouth; an infection can also be spread through contact with blood during sexual activity. STDs are infrequently transmitted by other types of contact (blood, body fluids or tissue removed from an STD infected person and placed in contact with an uninfected person). However, people that share unsterilized needles markedly increase the chance to pass many diseases, including STD’s (especially hepatitis B), to others. Some diseases are not considered to be officially an STD (for example, hepatitis types A, C, E) but are infrequently noted to be transferred during sexual activity. Consequently, some authors include them as STD’s, while others do not. Some lists of STD’s can vary, depending on whether the STD is usually transmitted by sexual contact or only infrequently transmitted. STDs affect men and women of all ages and backgrounds, including children. Many states require that Child Protective Services be notified if children are diagnosed with an STD. STDs have become more common in recent years, partly because people are becoming sexually active at a younger age, are having multiple partners, and do not use preventive methods to lessen their chance of acquiring an STD. Seniors show a marked increase in STDs in the last few years as many do not use condoms. People can pass STDs to sexual partners even if they themselves do not have any symptoms. Frequently, STDs can be present but cause no symptoms, especially in women (for example, chlamydia, genital herpes or gonorrhea). This can also occur in some men. Health problems and long-term consequences from STDs tend to be more severe for women than for men. Some STDs can cause pelvic infections such as pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), which may cause a tubo-ovarian abscess. The abscess, in turn, may lead to scarring of the reproductive organs, which can result in an ectopic pregnancy (a pregnancy outside the uterus), infertility or even death for a woman. Human papillomavirus infection (HPV infection), an STD, is a known cause of cancer of the cervix. Many STDs can be passed from a mother to her baby before, during, or immediately after birth. Because the method of becoming infected is similar with all STDs, a person often obtains more than one pathogenic organism at a time. For example, many people (about 50%) are infected at a single sexual contact with both gonorrhea and chlamydia.

Depending on the disease, STDs can be spread with any type of sexual activity. STDs are most often caused by viruses and bacteria. The following is a list of the most common STDs, their causes. Additionally, there are other infections (see STDs with asterisk mark*) that may be transmitted on occasion by sexual activity, but these are typically not considered to be STDs by many investigators:

Always use a condom when having sexual intercourse.

Busia Unveils Plans to Fight HIV and Stigma

BUSIA county has unveiled a plan to eliminate stigmatisation and discrimination of teachers living with HIV-Aids.

The Journey to Zero campaign will educate teachers on the need to promote co-existence between them and their HIV positive counterparts.

The plan, whose implementation runs until 2019, will create awareness on the importance of timely testing, access to treatment, care and support for teachers living with the virus.

During the launch participants agreed that HIV-Aids affects the country’s workforce and its spread needs to be urgently addressed.

“We cannot continue burying our heads in the sand expecting things to change,” Busia Governor Sospeter Ojaamong’s wife Judithsaid at Amagoro Primary School on Friday said.

“We must come together in the fight against HIV-Aids if we want to succeed. Pulling together will enable us make a change.”

Busia is ranked among counties with the highest HIV-Aids prevalence rates.

The latest National Aids Control Council report ranks the county among the top ten counties with the highest prevalence rates standing at seven per cent.

The national prevalence rate is six per cent.

Magdalene Mwele, a Wellness Programmes Assistant Coordinator at TSC said the Teachers Service Commission has registered an increase in the number of teachers openly declaring their HIV-Aids status and who are were now beneficiaries of the various programmes the commission has for HIV positive teachers.

“The continued partnership between TSC and Kenya Network for HIV positive teachers has resulted in a steady increase of teachers who have visited the commission and voluntarily disclosed their HIV status,” she said.

Documenting human rights Violations of sex workers in Kenya: a study conducted in Nairobi, Kisumu, Busia, Nanyuki, Mombasa and Malindi

Description:
This study investigates the human rights violations experienced by women sex workers in Kenya. This research found that these women have no way to claim their individual human rights under the current operating laws and policy framework. They are unable to keep themselves safe as they seek to support themselves and their families because they are relentlessly subject to police harassment, arrest and abuse. Furthermore, because sex work is viewed as an ‘immoral activity’ rather than as a form of labour, many in society believe that sex workers deserve to be punished for what they do. The information and recommendations contained in this report provide ways for the Kenya Government and state institutions to address the human rights concerns of sex workers. Similarly human and women’s rights organisations in Kenya will find many strategies in this report that can be used to advocate for the protection of sex workers’ rights.

  1. Policy analysis and advocacy decision model for services for key populations in Kenya

    From 2010–2012, the global Health Policy Project (funded by the United States Agency for International Development), in partnership with African Men for Sexual Health and Rights (AMSHeR), developed Policy Analysis and Advocacy Decision Model for HIV-Related Services: Males Who Have Sex with Males, Transgender People, and Sex Workers (Beardsley K., 2013), hereafter referred to as the Decision Model. …

  2. The global HIV epidemics among sex workers

    Since the beginning of the epidemic sex workers have experienced a heightened burden of HIV across settings, despite their higher levels of HIV protective behaviors (UNAIDS, 2009). By gaining a deeper understanding of the epidemiologic and broader policy and social context within which sex work is set one begins to quickly gain a sense of the complex backdrop for increased risk to HIV among sex workers. …

  3. Integrated biological and behavioural surveillance survey among migrant female sex workers in Nairobi, Kenya

    Kenya is currently experiencing both a generalized and a concentrated HIV epidemic. It has a national HIV prevalence of 6.3 per cent and 1.3 million people between the ages of 15 to 64 across the country are living with HIV. According to the Kenya National AIDS Control Council (NACC), female sex workers (FSW) and their clients account for 14.1% of new infections. The Kenyan national response has recently started targeting research and programming efforts towards key population groups, and specifically FSW. However, migrants have not been targeted as a distinct category. …

  4. Documenting human rights Violations of sex workers in Kenya: a study conducted in Nairobi, Kisumu, Busia, Nanyuki, Mombasa and Malindi

    This study investigates the human rights violations experienced by women sex workers in Kenya. This research found that these women have no way to claim their individual human rights under the current operating laws and policy framework. They are unable to keep themselves safe as they seek to support themselves and their families because they are relentlessly subject to police harassment, arrest and abuse. Furthermore, because sex work is viewed as an ‘immoral activity’ rather than as a form of labour, many in society believe that sex workers deserve to be punished for what they do. …

  5. I expect to be abused and I have fear: Sex workers’ experiences of human rights violations and barriers to accessing healthcare in four African countries

    This report documents human rights violations experienced by female, male and transgender sex workers in four African countries (Kenya, Uganda, South Africa and Zimbabwe), and describes barriers they face to accessing health services. Through cross-country comparison and documenting sub-regional trends, the study moves beyond previous often-localised descriptions of violations against sex workers in Africa. The study also fills information gaps about violations in male and transgender sex workers in this setting.

  6. Impact of five years of peer-mediated interventions on sexual behavior and sexually transmitted infections among female sex workers in Mombasa, Kenya

    Background: Since 2000, peer-mediated interventions among female sex workers (FSW) in Mombasa Kenya have promoted behavioural change through improving knowledge, attitudes and awareness of HIV serostatus, and aimed to prevent HIV and other sexually transmitted infection (STI) by facilitating early STI treatment. Impact of these interventions was evaluated among those who attended peer education and at the FSW population level. Methods: A pre-intervention survey in 2000, recruited 503 FSW using snowball sampling. …

    1. The global HIV epidemics among sex workers

      Since the beginning of the epidemic sex workers have experienced a heightened burden of HIV across settings, despite their higher levels of HIV protective behaviors (UNAIDS, 2009). By gaining a deeper understanding of the epidemiologic and broader policy and social context within which sex work is set one begins to quickly gain a sense of the complex backdrop for increased risk to HIV among sex workers. …

OUR DEEP CONDOLENCES

     Nelly Achieng. final edit minorIt is with humble acceptance of God’s will that we announce the passing on of our beloved Nelly Achieng which occurred on 7th February 2015 after a short illness.Friends and family are meeting daily for prayers and final arrangements at Survivors Organization Office premises just next to cheers club as from 8pm

2nd Corinthians 12:9: My Grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.

A VISIT TO SURVIVORS ORGANIZATION BY USAID IN CONJUNCTION WITH APHIA PLUS WESTERN

     On 26th Jan 2015, Survivors organization heard visitors from US AID and APHIA PLUS  to document  success stories at survivors organization.The team has been funding survivors organization for the last 3 years also supporting projects with the aim of  reducing HIV  New Infections,Stigma and Discrimination,Peer Education, CPWP ,HT C,Cervical Cancer Screening, VMMC,Exchange Visit and among otherDSC06509 DSC06511

Survivors Organization  Members  sharing success stories
@Survivors Organization Busia Kenya,

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Survivors Organization Members sharing success stories
@Survivors Organization Busia.

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Survivors organization busia Community Organizationon facebook

Knowing Your Status And Advocating For Behaviour Change Keeps You At A Better Chance In Helping Our Community And Socierty Impliment And Reduce New Hiv/Aids Infections , Reduction Of Stigma& Discrimination Also Minimising New Hiv Relatade Deaths. Be A Hero By Sharering This Information With our Friends.

Condom shortage in Busia town

We sex workers of Busia believe in our slogan of “condom is good all the time and all the time condom is good and that is our nature”! Surprisingly, we are not living to our slogan due to inadequate supply of condoms.

Our main condom supplier who are PS-Kenya together with the ministry of health have not been able to make the necessary deliveries for the past three months, which has made it impossible for sex workers to carry on with their business smoothly. To some extent, a few condom dispensers have been spotted having used sanitary pads and black notes due to being without condoms for long.

We have reached out to our partners who include; Ampath-plus, Busia wellness centre and the public health office but they also sing the same song like us ‘they do not have enough condoms’ they are waiting for new stock!

Kindly we are appealing to other partners and organization out there, who could be having some in store to help us please!!!!!!!!!!!!!!