The ILO in Kenya has developed an innovative programme to enhance access to HIV testing among workers in the informal economy but also to facilitate their access to national social protection schemes. It is part of the Voluntary Counselling and Testing for Workers’ Initiative - the VCT@WORK Initiative.
“The informal economy in Kenya accounts for 83% of the workforce. Workers in the informal economy are hardly covered by social protection schemes so our programme is a good way to combine access to HIV testing and counselling and increase access to social protection for workers in the informal economy,” said Ms. Hellen Magutu, National Project Coordinator.
Involving workers and employers
The approach primarily covers truck drivers, small traders, artisans and other informal economy workers such as young women working in hair and beauty salons, who find it difficult to visit the HIV testing centres as well as to access social protection.
This is primarily due to lack of information and the loss of daily wages when they have to travel a long way to get tested.
The ILO teamed up with local truck drivers’ unions and other partners to provide HIV testing services along the Northern transport corridor (Mombasa to Busia). Hotspots for sex workers have been identified where onsite HIV testing services are also provided.
The ILO also partnered with the hair and beauty salon workers’ union to target this particular group.
Union officials have been trained on HIV management at the workplace. Onsite integrated health/HIV testing and counselling services are provided in congregate worksites, along with awareness on the benefits of enrolling with a social protection scheme.
The union also mobilizes workers to become members of the Savings and Credit Cooperative (SACCO).
The Federation of Kenya Employers reaches out to their member companies to scale up the HIV response at their workplace and beyond.
Officials of the National Hospital Insurance Fund (NHIF) and the National Social Security Fund (NSSF) are invited to sensitize workers on the importance of enrolling with the schemes. Onsite registration is available wherever possible during HIV testing and awareness events.
The programme has been running over the last five years and, more than 134,000 workers mainly in the informal economy had already been tested at the end of 2018. More than 1,300 were found HIV positive and referred to the health system for treatment.
Progress has also been made on social protection registration. Over the same period of time, more than 10,500 male and 8,000 female informal economy workers were enrolled with NHIF after attending HIV testing events. Over 6,000 male and 5,100 female informal economy workers were enrolled with NSSF through similar events.