JOHANNESBURG, 23 August 2012—Last night saw the presentation of the South African National AIDS Council’s (SANAC)’s National Sex Worker Sector Plan at a cocktail event held in Johannesburg.
The sex worker plan is the first plan to provide a coordinated and multi-sectoral response to HIV prevention, treatment, care and support for sex workers in South Africa with sex workers at its centre.
A team led by the Sex Workers’ Education and Advocacy Taskforce (SWEAT) developed the plan over many months of consultation with a range of stakeholders, including sex workers themselves – heeding the call for ‘nothing about us without us’.
The sex worker sector plan is a clear articulation of a sexual and reproductive health package where a sex worker could receive a range of SRH services. This includes the management of sexually transmitted infections, post-exposure prophylaxis for rape and sexual assault, HPV screening, contraception and termination of pregnancy services.
Says Dr. Julitta Onabanjo, United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) Representative in South Africa, ‘This is a milestone which we must appreciate, but we have to work harder and do more. In countries that have invested in programmes which target key populations a lot has been achieved. This is an opportunity to hold accountable a number of stakeholders. Let’s look at this as a moment in time and look to opportunities’.
Added Dr Fareed Abdullah, CEO of SANAC, ‘Other countries which have brought national sex worker programmes to scale have shown a significant reduction in HIV prevalence among this key population’.
The presentation of the plan comes at the close of the first day of a two-day national sex workers symposium to explore best practices in the HIV response for sex workers and how to learn from these when building a national programme for sex workers.
The symposium is taking the discussion beyond the rhetoric and controversy and focusing on the evidence base on sex work and health, with a focus on HIV. It is estimated that HIV prevalence among sex workers is between 44 and 69 per cent, while it has stabilized at 17% in the general population. In 2010, one in five new infections of HIV were related to sex work.
The second day of the symposium will see the Deputy Minister of Police, the Honourable Maggie Makhotso Sotyu will speak about the role of the South African Police Services (SAPS) in reducing stigma among sex workers.