It is 1a.m in Kisii town. The booming music from Club Havana would make one think the night has just started. There is a man seated by the entrance selling cigarettes, chewing gum, packets of condom among other things. There are three girls standing nearby. They would pass as ordinary party goers. Two of them are partially hidden. One who is brightly dressed in a yellow ‘college’ jacket and a striped short skirt stands by the light exposing a set of very light skinned thighs that are a near yellow.
Further down the street is slightly dark with poor illumination. The main source of light comes from the security lights atop Aga Khan Hospital gate just across the street.This street stands in stark contrast to a nearby one that boasts of an array of street lights and a collection of neon signs and disco lights illuminating the line of discotheques with blaring speakers facing the tarmac below. Most of the speakers are suspended along rails facing the main road. A number of street boys are vigorously dancing to the ‘free’ music as a bevy of girls throng the streets adorned in different clothes of shiny colors.As you turn left at the end of the street, you are met with a completely different scenario. The road is generally deserted but on closer scrutiny you realize a number of scantily dressed women and girls strategically positioned along the corridors outside closed shops. Some are seated on makeshift seats. Some men walk about shyly with twisted necks in the direction of the ladies. It then strikes you that these are not your ordinary gate keepers. They are call girls. The men are possible clients looking for female company. If the girls beckon you and you assume them, you are escorted with ready insults. They mean business.
A man clutching a bottle of coca cola in his left hand approaches the ladies. They sandwich him as each seeks to create an impression. The intention is obvious. What follows is a haggling process reminiscent of a cattle market. One lady who seems to be in her early thirties is evidently heavy with child.This is no street for cowards. One needs to know the way around to be able to maneuver without difficulty. The ladies are not keen on being taken out of town. One is quick to reveal that once out of town they are left at the mercy of the guy to decide how much to offer or at times how many guys to sleep with – in worse situations one goes without being paid. If you have a car you are more suspicious and will be charged highly due to the risk involved.
Most of them have rooms nearby where they take their clients. They prefer a full package where you negotiate for both a room and their ‘service’. Mark you; the price varies depending on how presentable a client looks.You are soon made to realize that the HIV/AIDS strategic report launched in August last year by the Kisii Deputy Director of AIDS Control Council Reginah Ombamu, Kisii County Executive Committee Member Urban and Physical Development and the County Health Executive Member Sarah Omache is partly informed by such nocturnal activities rife in the town.
The report stated that Kisii County is ranked at position 42 out of 47 Counties in Kenya in the HIV prevalence rate. The report further asserts that there is a low condom uptake in the region which poses significant risk of HIV infections to the population. The report attributes the high numbers of HIV infections to low testing rates and cultural practices that include wife inheritance in the community. There are also early sexual encounters among the youth.According to Anne Chepkurui, a qualified sociologist and a don at Kisii University, the proliferation of middle level colleges and university campuses in Kisii town is a major contributor to the rising cases of ‘flesh’ trade and increased rate of HIV prevalence. She avers that college students are in search of ‘good’ lives at the expense of their health.
It is not uncommon to find ladies of different cadres selling flesh in Kisii town; both old and young as well as the educated and uneducated. It is approaching 4 a.m. and there is a slight increase in activity in the town as it wakes up from its lull. Bodabodas can be seen crisscrossing the streets with passengers destined for various points in town. Soon the ladies will disappear from the streets and gather in their various dens from where they receive their clients during the day.