The COVID-19 pandemic has led the government to put in place social interaction restrictions to curb the infections, most of which have greatly affected the key populations strategies for accessing health care services. Several preventive measures, such as the WHO-prescribed social distancing guidelines and a countrywide night-time curfew and restricted movement in and out of hotspots led to the closure of entertainment establishments that are frequented by most key populations.
As a result, most Key Population programming services have changed to align with the government directives and to ensure that the populations represented still have access to health services. Through the coordination of the National KP program at NASCOP, the National KP Technical Working group established measures and strategies to ensure that none of their constituencies (FSW; MSM; PWUD; TG) lacked access to the necessary services. Among the actions undertaken was the provision of methadone for the PWID community. NASCOP has also been spearheading zoom meetings with the counties, partners, and CBOs to
better serve the communities during this period and still keep them safe. Some of the strategies adopted include;
1. Enhancing EPO, a peer approach program, for case identification. This incentive-based program utilizes a pool of highly selected mobilizers who can reach high-risk peers outside the programs, drawn from clients who test positive for HIV or STIs, or those considered as being at high risk by the service providers.
2. Currently, Key populations are using WhatsApp groups to sensitize Peer educators about COVID-19. The peer educators were then able to cascade prevention information to the peers as they interact, and the messages were reinforced during the modified review meetings online.
3. Peer navigators are now conducting follow-ups through mobile text messages and phone calls, while internal staff meetings and support groups take place virtually.
4. To comply with the curfew limitations, operating hours at the DIC’es have also changed as well as the introduction of appointment scheduling for some programs.
5. The KP programs have also adopted recommendations given by Kenya's MOH include: wearing of masks, washing of hands, disinfecting of surfaces, providing handwashing stations and hand sanitizers at strategic places within the DIC, displaying COVID-19 related information on DIC walls, setting waiting-chairs at least 1-meter distance apart and controlling the number
of staff members and volunteers at the DICs. The programs have been able to adjust and ensure continuity of service to the KPs while ensuring their safety and minimal chances of contracting COVID-19 at the DICs.
Winfred Nduku (TSU-Nascop) & Antony Kariri (PHDA)