Sex workers call for access to HIV prevention drugs

Sex workers have called for an increase in sensitisation and provision of pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEp) to prevent themselves from getting HIV.

Presenting a paper on 18 July at AIDS 2016, Carolyn Njoroge from Kenya Sex Worker Alliance (KESWA) said there is a need for PrEP awareness among individuals and institutions with decision-making authority. PrEP is taken in the form of a daily pill by people who are at substantial risk of developing HIV.

Njoroge rallied sex workers to demand access to PrEP as one way of ensuring the prevention of the virus.

“Particularly, sex workers, people who inject drugs and other key populations are in need of PrEP but also need to know about it,” she said.

“We know many people do not want to take drugs but, as sex workers, PrEP is the way to go, especially when we have condom stock-out and in the event of rape or violent clients,” she added.

Macklean Kyomya an official from Alliance of Women to Advocate for Change in Uganda appealed to governments to eliminate laws that criminalise sex workers, saying such laws also put their lives in danger and expose them to HIV.

“In Uganda where sex working is criminal, it puts their lives in danger because when their rights are violated there is nowhere to report it to because of fear of being arrested,” she said.

Grace Kamau who works with the Bar Hostess Empowerment and Support Programme (BHESP) in Kenya demanded that policy makers, donors and researchers should always consult with them as the people who are impacted by the research and decisions.

She accused donors of being more interested in treatment and research without spending more money on community engagement which she said will affect the HIV prevention programme.

“We are the end users and understand our community better, engage us for better programming of HIV intervention and this time we are saying anything without us is not for us,” she said.

Thulisile Khoza one of the sex workers and a member of Sisonke Sex Worker Movement in South Africa said: “We are human beings, we provide services to those that need it and our services must be paid for.”