Mobile centres to help sex workers

Sisters with voices, and initiative of the Centre for Sexual Health, HIV and Aids Research, has established 27 drop-in centres for sex workers countrywide, offering health care, condom distribution, legal advice and outreach through peer educators.

“We now have a data base for 12,383 sex workers countrywide. We recorded 33,151 visits. 10,445 women were treated for STIs, 4,315 were HIV tested, of which 2,132 tested positive and were referred for antiretroviral therapy,” said the Programme Coordinator Sibongile Mtetwa.

The group runs the national sex work programme, started by the National Aids Council, UNAIDS, IOM and UNFPA in 2007.

“We want to increase our drop-in sites to 36 (six fixed and 30 mobile) across the nation,” said Mtetwa. “We have trained 131 peer educators (sex workers) and are engaging nurses to familiarise with them to improve respect, protection and upholding of SWs rights to promote their universal access to HIV prevention, treatment, care and support.”

This followed allegations that nurses tended to discriminate against SWs, resulting in their reluctance to seek medical help. “Sex workers are marginalised and bear the brunt of the HIV epidemic. They often face stigma and discrimination at public services. Increasing their engagement in HIV care will minimize health inequality and has the potential to benefit population health,” added Mtetwa.

The mobile highway sites target hot-spot areas such as mining areas, border towns and stop-overs on major highways.

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