July 29, 2014

Better policing to stop the spread of HIV

We've recently published two editions of a film about a surprising approach to HIV prevention that relies on the unlikely bond between police officers and marginalized communities. Watch and share To Protect and Serve, a short film focusing on police training programs in Kenya and Kyrgyzstan, below. Also check out a Kenya specific cut of the film From Enemies to Allies on MSNBC.com

In Kisumu, Kenya’s third largest city, police abuse of sex workers was rampant. Extortion, physical and psychological abuse were commonplace, and sex workers’ rights were violated. This resulted in sex workers not receiving essential health services and police officers contributing to the spread of HIV.

Through a novel approach, a local NGO called Keeping Alive Societies’ Hope (KASH) has fought to reverse that trend by building better relationships between these former adversaries. By offering training programs, HIV testing in the red light district, and even volleyball games, KASH hopes that it’s approach will prove more effective than promoting condom use.

In Kyrgyzstan, the police academy has included courses for more than 800 officers on harm reduction, sex work, and HIV prevention. Speakers at these trainings include health experts, sex workers, and people who use drugs. Instead of locking people up, police officers now refer people to drop-in centers or treatment clinics, or they help to facilitate the delivery of methadone to those in police custody.

A report presented by the Open Society Foundations at the 20th International AIDS Conference last week says police departments around the world—from Kenya to Kyrgyzstan—are implementing similar lifesaving programs.

Perhaps this new model will provide a road map for the rest of the world in combatting HIV.