In 1984 in response to studies that revealed a high proportion of sex workers were HIV positive, the University of Nairobi’s Department of Microbiology and Community Health set up a STD clinic. Eight years later, 1992, in an effort to address a limitation of the medical model that fails to address individuals’ need for social and economic support and to reduce female sex workers’ exposure to HIV/AIDS, Dr. Elizabeth Ngugi, a nurse by training and a renowned pioneer in HIV/AIDS work, formed and registered the HERS as a non-governmental organization.
In addition to being an ardent advocate for some of Kenya’s most vulnerable female populations, Dr. Ngugi is a senior lecturer in the School of Public Health, University of Nairobi and Director of the Centre for HIV Prevention & Research (CHIVPR), and a key architect in developing the country’s HIV/AIDS strategic plan. She is also a founding member the Society of Women and AIDS in Kenya (SWAK). Dr. Ngugi’s dedication to making a difference in the lives of individuals included among Kenya’s most vulnerable populations has been widely recognized. In 2004 the United Nations awarded her with the Person of the Year Award for Outstanding Contribution to the National Response to HIV/AIDS in Kenya; in 2005 the Kenyan Government awarded her with the Presidential Award, Order of the Golden Warrior; and in 2007 the World YWCA awarded her with the Council Certificate in recognition of dedicated leadership in changing lives and communities.