How police can help prevent HIV

Sometimes, innovative solutions to social challenges are born in the most unlikely places. In Kisumu, Kenya a surprising approach to HIV prevention relies on building bonds two unlikely groups: police officers and sex workers. 

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.  

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.

Julie Winokur, a writer and documentary film producer, is the  Executive Director of Talking Eyes Media.