The Deputy President launched the plan in his capacity as the chairperson of the South African National Aids Council (SANAC). The National Sex Worker HIV Plan is a coordinated national sex worker HIV prevention, care and treatment plan. It includes the provision of pre-exposure and early treatment for sex workers as core components of the health care package, as advocated by the World Health Organisation (WHO).
The National Strategic Plan on HIV, STIs and TB 2012-2016 states that sex workers need a comprehensive and nationally coordinated response. This should include HIV care, treatment and prevention services that address exacerbating factors such as alcohol and substance use, including access to justice and legal protection to address violence and harassment of sex workers.
However, the Deputy President said the plan, which is the first of its kind in South Africa and Africa, will not succeed if sex workers are ignored, neglected, forgotten, disregarded, marginalised and stigmatised.
He called on all sex workers to realise the power they hold in their hands to help the nation make HIV/Aids a thing of the past.
“Use this plan to help our nation fight the scourge of HIV/Aids,” he said.
He said the rate of HIV amongst sex workers is alarming and that it is everybody’s responsibility to do something about it.
“We must realise that we are faced with a very serious situation. This is very worrying.”
He said the plan aims to sensitise health care providers, social workers and law enforcement officials on the rights of sex workers.
SANAC has partnered with Legal Aid SA to provide legal and paralegal support through a call centre service to sex workers who are arrested.
“We have to grasp the challenges of how we deal with the legal status of sex workers and also how our current laws are going to have to balance the interests of sex workers as well as the needs of society as a whole,” said Deputy President Ramaphosa.
He said sex workers should no longer be beaten up with no recourse to justice or e subjected to unlawful arrest.
Health Deputy Minister Joe Phaahla said about 3.4 million people in South Africa are on ARV treatment.
SANAC Chief Executive Officer Dr Fareed Abdullah said about 72 percent of sex workers in the Johannesburg area live with HIV, although three quarters of sex workers are using condoms all the time.
He also said 81 percent of sex workers in Johannesburg have a serious problem with alcohol.
“Some of the sex workers do their job willingly but some are forced by circumstances,” he said.
He said the plan is to reach about 70 000 sex workers within three years, recruit 1 094 peer educators and provide pre-exposure prophylaxis to sex workers, among other things.
UNAIDS Regional Director Professor Sheila Tlou called on all leaders to get rid of all laws and policies that discriminate against sex workers. She said about 15 million women in the world are involved in sex work. – SAnews.gov.za