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No dignity in health for sex workers

Friday, 09 December 2011 12:35

By Anso Thorn, Health-e News

Moriscia Cloete (37) bucks the trend. Many sex workers share stories of broken, unhappy, abusive homes and childhoods, but the tall woman with the easy smile recalls growing up “with a good family” and receiving a solid education.

Cloete was a highly qualified paramedic with dreams of becoming a doctor when she responded to an advertisement for a masseuse.

“It was my first paying job and I realised very quickly that this was not only about being a masseuse,” she giggles, her long, curly black hair falling over her shoulders. Some grey around her temples is the only hint that she is not a youngster anymore.

“Very soon, I was working as a stripper and pole dancer,” explains Cloete, who only works from escort agencies where she feels safer, protected from abusive clients.

“I only have sex with a condom, but it’s not easy as about 80% of my clients, men and women, want to have sex without condoms. But even if they offered me R500 extra, I wouldn’t agree,” says Cloete, adding she has regular HIV tests.

“So, it not easy to always find customers who will have sex with a condom, but I am telling you the female condom has become our best friend. The men often complain that the condom robs them of their manhood or they lose sensation, but I manage to convince them to give the female condom a try, and more often that not they love it. The female condom has a ring which rubs against the penis, so that is already a big plus and I feel much tighter to the man, so that is another bonus. It’s well lubricated and he can feel my body heat. I should really be a saleslady for the female condom,” Cloete laughs.

Cloete frowns when quizzed on the treatment of sex workers at healthcare facilities. “Look, I have been in the game for 17 years, they know me by now. I am honest because if I am not I run the risk of not receiving proper treatment. But there is no doubt they treat us differently. You get shoved to the back of the queue and they take so long to help you. Instead of respecting the fact that I am concerned for my health and that of my clients, they don’t treat me in a dignified manner,” says Cloete.

A couple of years ago, Cloete broke both her ankles in an accident and she now walks with a limp. The injury has also hampered her ability to work regularly.

“I never received any physiotherapy after the accident, despite me asking several times, and I am still convinced it was because they viewed my case as less important,” claims Cloete.

Cloete adds that condoms often break, but rather than trying to find help at the clinic or hospital, sex workers have devised their own remedies.

“We douche with a mixture of water, a pinch of salt and lemon immediately after the incident. If these ingredients are not available we use beer,” she says. Quizzed about whether it is not risky to rely on an unproven remedy she laughs: “It’s not very comfortable, but it does the job.”

“I have no doubt that a dedicated service would go a long way towards addressing the challenges of HIV, surely by not assisting us many people are being placed at risk,” she says.

[This news article was originally sourced from Health-e News, http://www.health-e.org.za/news/article.php?uid=20033359]