‘Progressive’ national sex worker plan launched in South Africa

16 March 2016
A sex worker in South Africa

A new HIV plan, hailed as 'unique' and 'progressive', has been launched in South Africa aiming to reduce the burden of HIV among sex workers in the country.

The National Sex Worker HIV Plan, 2016-2019, will ensure equal access to health and legal services for all sex workers in the country – including services for their partners, clients and families. 

Increasing access to testing for sex workers is a key part of the plan. Sex workers who test positive, will be offered treatment straight away. Sex workers who test negative will also be offered pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), to be used in combination with other HIV prevention interventions.

HIV services will be delivered in a variety of ways, to ensure that all sex workers will benefit. These include peer support, community-driven outreach and referrals, and specialised clinics, in addition to primary healthcare providers.

Sex workers will also benefit from access to legal support and justice services, in a country where sex work is illegal.

UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibé stated that South Africa was an innovator, and that “by listening to sex workers and collaborating with the community, South Africa’s tailor-made national HIV plan offers real hope for sex workers, who are often left behind in the AIDS response.”

According to a UNAIDS press release, there are currently 153,000 sex workers in South Africa. Whilst HIV prevalence among this group varies, it is thought to be up to 72% in some cities. On top of the HIV burden, sex workers often experience higher levels of stigma, discrimination, violence and sexually transmitted infections (STIs).,The plan aims to provide a package of HIV services and interventions tailored to their specific needs

Photo credit:
© South African College of Applied Psychology