Access to Healthcare in a time of COVID-19: Sex Workers in Crisis in Nairobi, Kenya

Glob Public Health. 2020 Oct;15(10):1430-1442. doi: 10.1080/17441692.2020.1810298. Epub 2020 Aug 20.


This paper uses empirical data collected from 117 female sex workers living in informal settlements in Nairobi and 15 healthcare providers to highlight specific effects of COVID-19 and related restrictions on healthcare access for the sex workers. We highlight the existing gender and health inequalities that have now been reinforced by the initial outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. Specifically, we focus on the most concerning healthcare needs for the sex workers including HIV prevention, care and treatment and sexual and reproductive healthcare. Our study findings reveal that the various restrictions imposed by the government to help curb the spread of COVID-19 to a large extent made it difficult for the sex workers to access their healthcare needs. The paper discusses the challenges of healthcare service delivery reflecting on some innovative and pioneering responses from health care providers to address the emergency situation.

Keywords: HIV; Sex workers; health care; prostitution; reproductive health.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Video-Audio Media

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Betacoronavirus
  • COVID-19
  • Communicable Disease Control / organization & administration
  • Coronavirus Infections / epidemiology*
  • Female
  • Health Services Accessibility*
  • Health Services Needs and Demand*
  • Humans
  • Kenya / epidemiology
  • Middle Aged
  • Pandemics
  • Pneumonia, Viral / epidemiology*
  • Qualitative Research
  • SARS-CoV-2
  • Sex Workers*