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National sex worker HIV plan launched

NACOSA Key Populations specialist, Maria Stacey and Programme Director, Marieta De Vos were in Pretoria to support the launch of the South African National Sex Worker HIV Plan 2016 – 2019 by Deputy President, Cyril Ramaphosa.

Sex workers have not received the same attention as the general population in the country response to HIV, tuberculosis (TB) and Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs). A 2013 rapid population size estimation study commissioned by SANAC reported that there are approximately 153 000 sex workers in South Africa. These workers are a highly marginalized group with high rates of HIV, TB, and STI incidence and prevalence. Prevalence is as high as 71.8% among female sex workers in Johannesburg – one of the very highest rates in the world. Sex workers face stigma and discrimination at every turn, including in the legal system and also when accessing health and social services.

Provision of prevention and treatment interventions for sex workers is a key goal for the country as a whole in order to address the HIV epidemic. The National Sex Worker HIV Plan aims to reach 70 000 sex workers over the next three years using a peer educator led approach. This will be achieved by recruiting 1 000 peer educators over the same period, in order to address the multiple drivers of HIV and opportunistic infections. Drivers include:

  • Violence – sexual and physical
  • Lack of empowerment to negotiate condom use
  • Legal barriers to accessing health and social services
  • Stigma and discrimination
  • Poverty and inequality
  • The fragmentation of sex worker programmes.

The Plan sets out targets to ensure that at least 95% of sex workers use condoms with their clients and partners, that gender-based violence falls by 50%, and that the global targets of 90-90-90 are met for sex workers.

The Plan has been the work of a wide range of government departments, NGOs, research organisations, the SANAC Sex Worker Sector and the SANAC Secretariat who worked together to establish consensus on all aspects of the Plan.

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