News / Africa

Sex Workers Seek HIV Prevention

The Lancet has published a new series warning an AIDS-free generation is impossible unless the disease is tackled among sex workers.
The Lancet has published a new series warning an AIDS-free generation is impossible unless the disease is tackled among sex workers.

Multimedia

Audio
Joe DeCapua

A new series in the medical journal The Lancet says achieving an AIDS-free generation will not be possible unless the human rights of sex workers are recognized. Researchers say sex workers face violence and discrimination and are not able to access the care, treatment and prevention measures they need.

Listen to De Capua report on HIV and sex workers
Listen to De Capua report on HIV and sex workersi
|| 0:00:00
...    
🔇
X

The Lancet articles say people who sell sex – whether in high or low income countries -- “face a disproportionate risk and burden of HIV.” These include women, men and transgenders. Much of the problem, the authors said, has to do with “repressive and discriminatory law, policy and practice.”

The series was presented at the 20th International AIDS Conference in Melbourne, Australia.

Linda-Gail Bekker is one of the authors. She’s a professor of medicine and deputy director of the Desmond Tutu HIV Center at the University of Cape Town.

She said, “Sex is something that all of us need to do as human beings. We’re designed this way. This is what we’re about. And if this is the way HIV is transmitted then we need to just kind of face that -- and address that in such a way that people can continue to live their lives in ways that are sustainable, but we can protect them at the same time.”

She said those in the profession prefer the term sex worker rather than prostitute.

“The community is wanting to think of themselves as doing regular work. And I think that’s in an effort to be recognized as individuals, who have dignity and are making a living. And work towards decriminalization of the profession.”

Professor Bekker said that sex workers are a marginalized community.

“There is huge stigma and discrimination that goes with that. And as a result people find themselves on the fringe of communities – on the fringe of humanity.”

Their activities are driven underground. She said they often do not have access to condoms, lubricants, HIV testing and treatment for sexually transmitted diseases.

“As a result,” she said, “they become incredibly at risk for HIV acquisition. This virus is a non-discriminator of human beings and it preys upon vulnerable individuals.”

Much of the violence sex workers face comes from police.  The very people, Bekker said, who are supposed to protect. She says sex workers often face stigma and discrimination when they go to health clinics.

“What I say as a public health individual is that I’m not here to decide on what people should or shouldn’t be doing. What I need to do is use the tools at my disposal to make sure that individuals are protected from viruses, particularly when I’ve got the tools to enable that,” she said.

Those tools now include PrEP, pre-exposure prophylaxis, whereby antiretroviral drugs are taken to prevent initial HIV infection. Also, new microbicides, or vaginal gels, are being developed that contain HIV blocking drugs.

Bekker said that the old ABC approach is no longer good enough.

“I don’t know what planet we were on when we thought this was going to be as simple as telling people to abstain. You know, hello. Be faithful or simply condomize. Now, condoms are great. But it’s clear that that’s a hard thing for people to do year in and year out.”

She said a successful HIV prevention and treatment program must include community mobilization that has input from sexworkers. Such programs have been effective in Thailand and India. Professor Bekker said they should include peer education and voluntary counseling and testing.

The Lancet series calls prevention programs for sex workers an “urgent international priority…backed-up by appropriate levels of funding from international and national health programs.” 

You May Like

Multimedia Baltimore 'Victory Rally' Follows Charges in Detainee Death

Saturday's rally is largest organized gathering since state's attonrey filed felony charges in police-custody death of Freddie Gray More

UN Denies Child Sex Abuse Cover Up in CAR

UNHCR says senior official suspected of leaking report suspended for breaching rules More

Nepal Officials Slammed Over Aid Response

VOA News has compiled from various organizations complaints from across Nepal of bottlenecks at customs, repeated harassing inspections of aid convoys and seizure of goods More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
From Aleppo To Berlin: Band of Brothers Escapes Civil Wari
X
Henry Ridgwell
May 03, 2015 1:12 AM
Hundreds of thousands of Syrians have fled the civil war in their country and journeyed to Europe by boat across the Mediterranean. It is a terrifying ordeal with dangers at every turn. A group of Syrian brothers and their friends describe their ordeal as they try to reach Germany. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports. ...
Video

Video From Aleppo To Berlin: Band of Brothers Escapes Civil War

Hundreds of thousands of Syrians have fled the civil war in their country and journeyed to Europe by boat across the Mediterranean. It is a terrifying ordeal with dangers at every turn. A group of Syrian brothers and their friends describe their ordeal as they try to reach Germany. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports. ...
Video

Video Rural Nepal Suffers Brunt of Quake’s Devastation

Nepal is still coming to grips with the full extent of the devastation and misery caused by last Saturday’s magnitude 7.8 earthquake. Some of the hardest-hit communities have been cut off by landslides making it difficult to assess the precise toll. A VOA News crew has been among the first to reach a few of the smaller, remote communities. Correspondent Steve Herman reports from the Sindhupolchak district, east of Kathmandu, which suffered greatly in Nepal’s worst quake in more than 80 years.
Video

Video Black Families Use Baltimore Case to Revisit 'Police Talk'

Following Freddie Gray’s death in police custody this month, VOA interviewed black families throughout the eastern U.S. city of Baltimore about how they discuss the case. Over and over, parents pointed to a crucial talk they say every black mother or father has with their children. Victoria Macchi has more on how this conversation is passed down through generations.
Video

Video Middle East Atheist Channel Defies Taboo

In Egypt, a deeply religious country in a deeply religious region, atheism is not only taboo, it is dangerous. It is sometimes even criminal to publicly declare nonbelief. Despite the danger, one group of activists is pushing back with a new online channel that defends the right not to believe. VOA’s Heather Murdock reports.
Video

Video Nepal Quake Survivors Tell Their Stories

Against all hope, rescuers have found a few more survivors of the devastating earthquake that hit Nepal last Saturday. Mountain climbers and hikers trapped in remote places also have been airlifted to safety, and aid is finally reaching people in the areas closest to the quake's epicenter. Survivors and rescuers are now recounting their experience. Zlatica Hoke has this story.
Video

Video Lessons for Germany, Europe Remain on Anniversary of WWII's End

The 70th anniversary of the end of World War II will be marked May 8-9 in all European countries except Germany, which lost the war. How is the war viewed there, and what impact is it still having? From Berlin, VOA’s Al Pessin reports.
Video

Video 'Woman in Gold' Uses Artwork as Symbol of Cultural Identity

Simon Curtis’ legal drama, "Woman in Gold," is based on the true story of an American Jewish refugee from Austria who fights to reclaim a famous Gustav Klimt painting stolen from her family by the Nazis during World War II. It's a haunting film that speaks to the hearts of millions who have sought to reclaim their past, stripped from them 70 years ago. VOA's Penelope Poulou reports.
Video

Video Nepal Town Destroyed By Quake Counts Itself Lucky

Foreign search teams on Wednesday began reaching some of the communities outside Kathmandu that suffered worse damage than Nepal’s capital from last Saturday’s massive earthquake. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman is in Sankhu - a town of about 10,000 people - where there is relief the death toll is not higher despite widespread destruction.
Video

Video First Surgical Glue Approved for Use Inside Body

While medical adhesives are becoming more common, none had been approved for use inside the body until now. Earlier this year, the first ever biodegradable surgical glue won that approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports on the innovation and its journey from academia to market.
Video

Video Somali Hotel Chain Owner Strives to Make a Difference

Many in the Somali diaspora are returning home to make a new life despite the continuing risks. Since 2011 when a military campaign against Al-Shabab militants began making progress, members of the diaspora community have come back to open hospitals, schools, hotels, restaurants and other businesses. Abdulaziz Billow in Mogadishu profiles the owner of a chain of hotels and restaurants who is helping to bring change to the once-deadly Somali capital.
Video

Video Study: One in Six Species Threatened with Extinction

Climate change is transforming the planet. Unless steps are taken to reduce global warming, scientists predict rising seas, stronger and more frequent storms, drought, fire and floods. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, a new study on species extinction underscores the need to take action to avoid the most catastrophic effects of rising temperatures.
Video

Video Taviani Brothers' 'Wondrous Boccaccio' Offers Tales of Love, Humor

The Italian duo of Paolo and Vittorio Taviani have been making movies for half a century: "The Night of the Shooting Stars," "Padre Padrone," "Good Morning, Babylon." Now in their 80s, the brothers have turned to one of the treasures of Italian culture for their latest film. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver reports.
Video

Video Child Migrants Cross Mediterranean Alone, Face Unknown Future

Among the thousands of migrants making the deadly journey by boat to Europe, there are unaccompanied girls and boys. Some have been sent by relatives to earn money; others are orphaned or fleeing war. From a shelter for young migrants in the Sicilian town of Caltagirone, VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Baltimore Riots Shed Light on City’s Troubled Past

National Guard troops took up positions Tuesday in Baltimore, Maryland, as authorities tried to restore order after rioting broke out a day earlier. It followed Monday's funeral of a 25-year-old black man who died while in police custody earlier this month. VOA's Chris Simkins reports.
Video

Video Challenges Await Aid Organizations on the Ground in Nepal

A major earthquake rocked Nepal on Saturday and killed thousands, injured thousands more and sent countless Nepalese outside to live in makeshift tent villages. The challenges to Nepal are enormous, with some reconstruction estimates at around $5 billion. Aid workers from around the world face challenges getting into Nepal, which likely makes for a difficult recovery. Arash Arabasadi has the story from Washington.

Poll: Baltimore Police Charged

Poll archive

VOA Blogs