Barriers Faced by Female Sex Workers in Seeking Healthcare at Public Health Facilities in Mlolongo Ward, Athi-river Sub-county
This was a cross-sectional descriptive study on barriers faced by FSWs while seeking healthcare at public health facilities in Mlolongo ward, Athi River Sub County. The study examined the barriers at the public health facilities that prevent FSWs from seeking health care at public health facilities and how they affect FSWs health seeking behavior. A sample of 30 FSWs comprised the study population and data was obtained through semi structured interviews, key informant interviews and case narratives. The study was guided by the critical medical anthropology theory. Data analysis was done using grounded approach and guided by the study objectives. The findings indicate that FSWs have unique health needs related to their work. They therefore have constant need of health care. None the less they have barriers that prevent them from seeking health care at public health facilities. Acute levels of stigma and discrimination towards FSWs in most public health facilities was a major barrier. It fuelled negative attitude of service providers towards FSWs. Other key barriers identified were poor quality of health care services, perceptions and fear of prosecution, weak policies, skills and knowledge gaps amongst most service providers. As a consequence of the outlined barriers in government health facilities, FSWs have resulted to other alternatives of health care the most preferred being private hospitals. The study concludes that stigma and weak health policies remain barriers to access of health care for FSWs. As a result, FSWs seek other alternatives for health care some of which turn out to be unhealthy. The study recommends sensitization of health care service providers on the health needs of FSWs. This should be accompanied by non-discriminatory health policies to ensure accommodation of FSWs. This will elicit broad-based access to healthcare services towards reducing the spread of diseases, infections, buying of drugs across the counter, behavior change and tackling the high out-of-pocket expenditure towards universal healthcare coverage for FSWs.
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