Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Female sex workers of East Africa are being forced or enticed to have sex with their clients without condom

It is disturbing to see that the sex workers of East Africa are being forced to provide their services to the clients without condom.

In the context of South-East Asia we experienced similar situation while working with the sex workers in the STI/HIV intervention projects, but we are happy to say we have documented good success stories in our sub-continent to make sex business protected from HIV and STIs to larger extent. Except very few places, HIV prevalence among female sex workers in SE Asia is showing steadily declining trend.

Condom promotion is the most primary and essential intervention in STI/HIV program. But the challenges are many, especially in terms of criminalization of sex workers, socio-cultural intolerance to sex work, harassment by police and administration, indirect and hidden form of sex work and continuous movement of the sex workers in a largely scattered geographic area.

It is very important that the sex workers should be involved in the HIV projects from the inception and their active participation in mapping, need assessment, stakeholders’ analysis, resource mapping of ‘preferred’ healthcare services, project design, program monitoring and decision making is extremely crucial that gradually makes them feel part of the project within a strategic partnership, not merely the beneficiaries of a health intervention project. Our Asian experiences account that continuous association with the HIV project related activities bring back their self-esteem and subsequently help them to collectivize to raise their voice against discrimination, subjugation and harassment by clients and cops. United they learn to say ‘No Condom No Sex’. This model has been popularized as ‘empowerment’ model.

It is equally important to sensitize the stakeholders who can directly and indirectly influence sex work and sex workers like city/village administration, cops, pimps, healthcare providers, religious leaders, public health department from strong public health and human right perspectives. Their cooperation and support is mandatory to ensure successful implementation of the HIV projects of the sex workers.

It will be pleasure and privilege of Universal Health to provide any kind of help and information to our brothers and sisters of East Africa to consolidate their war against the HIV epidemic.

Sugata Mukhopadhyay
Universal health

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