Gilbert Kipruto Chepkok at work in Nairobi, Kenya. Gilbert Kipruto Chepkok at work in Nairobi, Kenya.

Reaching men where they are

5 December 2017

I felt great to be among the people who were tested for HIV. I now know my status, the status of my family and now I can plan for my future in a good manner.
Gilbert Kipruto Chepkok

Gilbert operates a boda boda, a motorcycle taxi that shuttles single passengers through the busy streets of Nairobi, Kenya. Motorcycles were introduced in Kenya in the 1960s when they were used to ferry goods and people across the Kenya-Uganda border, giving them the nickname “boda boda”, an informal term for “one border to the other”. Today boda bodas are ingrained into the very fabric of working-class city life as an affordable and efficient way to navigate the heavy Nairobi traffic.

Boda boda riders face imminent danger every day as they navigate traffic and road hazards. Many riders are seriously injured or die from road accidents every year.

The daily risk involved in riding a boda boda creates a highly masculine working environment. Coupled with an unregulated informal sector, long and irregular hours and mobility, access to health and HIV services for boda boda riders is difficult—and easy to avoid.

To address this issue and showcase Nairobi’s innovative approach to meeting the commitments in the Paris Declaration, Nairobi County Health Services implemented a ten-day rapid HIV testing workplace initiative among boda boda riders. Gilbert was one of the more than 10 000 riders tested. The campaign included HIV testing, referral for HIV treatment, road safety and linkages to psychosocial support, microfinance institutions and social protection services.

The campaign was very successful, thanks to Gilbert and a few fellow riders, who promoted the campaign through their microfinance club. They spoke to the 200 riders in their club, dispelled myths and explained the benefits of HIV testing in a way that their peers would appreciate and understand.

Gilbert is happy to take on the responsibility of being tested for HIV, which he had only done once before almost a decade ago. He says it is usually his wife who attends the clinic when she goes for antenatal testing.

“I went back to my family and informed them that I was tested. My wife was very happy because she was the one being tested for such a very long time, but this time it was me who was telling her I was tested,” he says.

Lillyan Mutua, the health promotion officer from Nairobi County Health Services, explains the rationale for implementing the HIV testing campaign among the boda boda riders: “If we want male involvement in health and HIV services then it is most appropriate for us to reach the men at their workplaces or where they socialize as men,” she says.