Our human-centred approach to protecting female sex workers claims a major design prize
They are devastating numbers. Kenya has the fourth-largest HIV epidemic in the world, with a prevalence rate of six per cent. That means approximately 1.6 million Kenyans are living with HIV infection.
And female sex workers are one of the most affected groups.
ThinkPlace Kenya has been awarded a prestigious design award from New-York based Core77 for a ground-breaking project – Sex Work is Real Work – that uses the principles of human-centred design to help drive uptake of available preventative medications by female sex workers.
It is work that will save lives.
The Kenyan Government recently introduced (Oral PrEP), a method that uses antiretroviral drugs to protect HIV-negative people from getting infected by the virus. The drug reduces the risk of HIV infection by taking one pill once a day.
But while Oral PrEP is a viable HIV prevention option, it cannot work if those most at risk are not aware of it, able to access information about it or persuaded of its benefits.
Our work – which was funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation - included a combination of both in-depth exploratory research and behavioural insights research. It was able to understand the motivators, decision-making pathways, and behavioural norms that are involved with decisions to access the drug.
This was a ground-breaking approach. So many public health communication strategies are grounded in using fear-based messaging to reduce harm.
We wanted to do something different, starting from a position of empathy and respect. ThinkPlace’s project uses a unique research strategy that works not only at the individual level (using aspirational messaging to encourage adoption and retention) but also at the peer group and community level (stimulating long-term social norm change).