Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Sex workers: the struggle continues

AMANDA LUYENGE writes: Particularly in South Africa where sex work hasn’t been legalised, sex workers are at risk of contracting the virus every day and those who have contracted it struggle to access treatment. Decriminalising sex work has been under discussion since 1994 but until this day, the struggle continues and so does the spread of HIV.

The HIV Research 4 Prevention conference kicked off this Wednesday morning by looking at targeting biomedical preventions for different at risk populations. You might be wondering what an “at risk population” is, well this is a group of people who share a characteristic/s that causes each member to be vulnerable to a particular event, in this case HIV. Sex Workers are seen as a population at risk of HIV because they make a living by having sexual intercourse and sexual intercourse is the main form in which HIV is transmitted. They are at risk because they are not protected by the law. Instead the law turns its back on them and they are left in the little corner with little access to anything, particularly treatment.

Dr Chris Beyer, a researcher from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health pointed out a few barriers in HIV treatment and prevention around sex workers. Sex workers are ashamed of visiting health care centres to get medical treatment because people will look askance at them and so they would rather carry on and keep spreading HIV. 

If we plan on reaching an HIV free generation, we need to look at this at-risk population because, with increasing unemployment, the number of sex workers increases.

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