The African Gender and Media Initiative Trust (GEM), in partnership with Lean on Me foundation, Grass roots Empowerment Trust ( GET ) and Personal Initiative for positive change (PIPE) has been running a campaign to end forced and coerced Sterilization among women living with HIV and AIDs. This campaign is supported by Open Society Foundation.
This campaign has been targeting communities, Women living with HIV and AIDs and Health workers. The strategy to engage health workers has been implemented through dialogue forums with health workers in Kisumu and Kakamega.
Health workers are drawn from the Maternal and Child Health (MCH) Clinics within the respective Sub Counties. The aim of the dialogue fora is to sensitize health workers on Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights of women living with HIV and AIDs and the need to respect these rights. Secondly is to discuss the existing family planning guidelines to refresh the requirements in Client Service and also identify gaps and deliberate on ways of addressing them.
The discussions on the family planning guidelines were facilitated by the Reproductive health Coordinators and the DASCO in the respective Sub Counties, while the discussions on Reproductive health rights were facilitated by lawyers from KELIN.
Through these forums health workers have been able to share the challenges they experience in addressing sexual and reproductive health rights in the context of HIV. Stigma was sighted as main cause of forcing and /or coercing women into sterilization. The health workers also sighted the heavy work load which leaves them with little time to effectively counsel and advice patients as required in the family planning guidelines.
Health workers were however reminded that that they needed to respect the rights of their clients to make decisions on whether to get sterilized or not.