Article by: Laura Lopez Gonzalez
24 March 2016
Sex workers may just be the start
We may be creating a social construct that PrEP is for these ‘bad people’ who are disorganised and are thought to be having a lot of sex. What we should be doing is targeting anyone who is at high risk of HIV”
In many countries, epidemiology is pushing governments to work with criminalised populations like sex workers and men who have sex with men to step HIV epidemics. For many politicians, it’s an uncomfortable partnership of necessity that in some African countries means that health departments are quietly undertaking small programmes to reach out to these groups without much public pomp and circumstance.South Africa’s high-level and very public commitment to addressing HIV among sex workers is a rarity.
“It’s rare for a country to have such high-level leadership dealing with HIV among sex workers,” Abdullah said. “It’s a sign that government is taking this very seriously and working with non-governmental organisations and the community to make sure that the right thing is done and done properly.
And PrEP for sex workers may be just the beginning.
Prior to the announcement, both the Wits Reproductive Health and HIV Institute (WRHI) and the Anova Health Institute had started small demonstration projects aimed at learning how best PrEP might be rolled out. While WRHI focused on Hillbrow sex workers, Anova Health nurses have been providing PrEP to about 100 men who have sex with men (MSM) from its Woodstock clinic in Cape Town.
Previous 2009 studies conducted in Johannesburg and Durban, as many as about 38 percent of MSM surveyed were living with HIV – a figure almost double the national adult HIV prevalence rate.
With a growing body of data on the country’s MSM, as well as new lessons being learned in Woodstock, MSMs may be the next group to receive PrEP if South Africa continues rolling out the once-a-day pill for prevention.
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