Kenya: Jeffrey Walimbwa on Improving HIV Services for Key Populations

As the Program Manager at ISHTAR MSM—a community-based organization in Nairobi, Kenya that advances sexual health rights of men who have sex with men (MSM)—Jeffrey Walimbwa advocates for the rights of marginalized groups to access health care, including diagnosis, care and treatment for HIV and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Mr. Walimbwa, an active member of the HIV Coverage, Quality, and Impact Network (CQUIN), got his start in community mobilization and advocacy when he joined ISHTAR in 2006. He now advocates for improved access to health services for MSM and other key populations in Kenya, and for high-quality differentiated service delivery (DSD) models.

In partnership with the Kenya Ministry of Health’s National AIDS & STI Control Programme (NASCOP), and with technical support from ICAP at Columbia, he’s conducting a survey to investigate barriers that community members face when they are accessing drugs or services at health facilities. ISHTAR has also received a grant from the International AIDS Society (IAS) to do community mobilization and work on a DSD strategy in Kenya.

How did you get involved in this work with ISHTAR and MSM?

I started working with ISHTAR in 2006, when I met our director, Peter Njane, along the streets of Nairobi and he convinced me to get tested for HIV. Together, we began reaching out to community members and peer educators, asking for them to get tested at a time when there were limited options for testing. We realized there are many HIV-positive people who didn’t know their status. That’s when we decided to do outreach. We do a one-week testing event for people in the city-center leading up to World AIDS Day each year; where I’ve learned that most of my friends are HIV positive. It was very scary, and it encouraged me to get involved in HIV programming.

How did you learn about DSD?

After the ICASA Conference in Cote d’Ivoire in 2017, I received an invitation from CQUIN to join their First Annual Meeting in Maputo, where I learned more about DSD and how it can help countries achieve the 90-90-90 targets. At the Science and Practice of Scale-up Meeting in Eswatini last June, I learned so much about the building blocks of DSD models while researching ways to scale up differentiated services for key population back home, such as home-based care and follow-up visits. At the Second Annual Meeting in Ethiopia this past November, there were many discussions about DSD for key populations, which drove me to think about how we can understand DSD in Kenya, and what organizations are doing this work. Read more via Columbia University