The ILO is prioritising both the scaling up of HIV-sensitive Social Protection and the VCT@WORK Initiative in Kenya and the strategy has been to build synergies between the two priorities. An innovative approach towards enhancing access to HIV testing in the informal economy and facilitating access to national social protection schemes has been adopted.
Salient features of the strategy:For reaching out to truckers, the ILO is partnering with the Central Organization of Trade Unions in Kenya (COTU-K), Kenya Long Distance Truck Drivers', Allied Workers' Union/Highway Community Health Resource Centre and Swedish Workplace HIV/AIDS Programme. This partnership provides voluntary HIV testing and counselling services along the northern transport corridor (Mombasa to Busia). Hotspots for sex workers have been identified where onsite HIV testing and counselling (HTC) is provided.
For hair and beauty salon workers, the ILO is partnering with the Kenya Union of Hair and Beauty Salon Workers, an affiliate of COTU-K and the AIDS Healthcare Foundation. Union officials have been trained on HIV management at the workplace. Onsite integrated health/HIV testing and counselling services are provided in workplaces, along with awareness on the benefits of enrolling with the National Hospital Insurance Fund (NHIF).The union also mobilizes workers to become members of the Savings and Credit Cooperative, encouraging them to save a portion of their income.
The Federation of Kenya Employers, through its Clustered HIV Enterprise Programmes (CHEP) Networks in Mombasa, Uasin Gishu and Laikipa Counties, reaches out to their member companies to scale up the HIV response at their workplace and beyond. VCT@WORK initiatives are organized targeting the informal economy workers from the Jua kali sector (small traders and artisans) with an integrated component of social protection. Officials of NHIF and NSSF from the specific counties are invited to sensitize workers on the importance of enrolling with the schemes. Wherever possible, workers are provided the facilities for onsite registration in NHIF.
Between July 2013 and December 2018:
- 134,111 workers (78,173 male and 55,938 female), the majority being in the informal economy, were tested. 1,301 found HIV positive referred to access treatment.
- Over 10,500 male and 8,000 female informal economy workers were enrolled with NHIF. Over 6,000 male and 5,100 female informal economy workers were enrolled with NSSF through different HIV testing events.
- Around 500 hair and beauty salon workers registered with the Savings and Credit Cooperative.
- Integration of HIV, health services and social protection helps reduce stigma and increases the uptake of HIV testing as well as enrolment of informal economy workers in social protection schemes.
- Onsite testing/enrolment of informal economy workers enhances the uptake and coverage of HIV services and social protection programmes.
- Trade unions have a significant role in reducing HIV-related stigma and discrimination and enhancing the uptake of HIV testing, treatment and support not only in formal but also in informal workplaces.
- Social protection provides income security for people living with HIV and informal economy workers and enables them to access HIV services.
- Engagement of trade union leaders, informal business association leaders and local administrations are essential to effectively reach workers in the informal economy.
- Workers in the informal economy are generally not aware of the benefits of social protection schemes, and the process of enrolling in them. Likewise, they are not aware about the benefits of timely HIV testing. Peer education can play a key role in creating awareness and promoting the uptake of services.
- Building on the positive experience and the partnerships that have been established, the ILO is expanding the VCT@WORK Initiative in other high and medium burden counties.
- Under the UNDAF outcome on social protection, the ILO is scaling up the integration of HIV and social protection in more counties targeting workers from formal as well as informal economy.