ASWA joins the rest of the world today on December 1st to commemorate World AIDS Day. First observed in 1988 and being the first-ever global health day.it is an opportunity for organizations and individuals worldwide to unite in the fight against HIV, show their support for people with HIV, and remember those who have died from an HIV-related illness.
The theme for the 2020 observance is “Ending the HIV/AIDS Epidemic: Resilience and Impact”
ASWA celebrates the sex workers living positively with HIV because they have shown resilience to the point of reaching undetectable. U=U (undetectable equals untransmittable).Joyce Adhiambo Sex Workers Academy Africa (SWAA) Faculty member and who have lived with HIV proudly highlights that U=U. They have beaten all odds -drug burden, drug fatigue, drug side-effects and HIV Stigma. They are our heroes to be celebrated. We also memorialize the sex workers who have died from HIV -related illness.
Patrick from Alcondoms Cameroun in Cameroon said ”one movement:women living with HIV in all our diversity and also keep the sex workers on the agenda.
Lawrence Phiri; Director Zimbabwe Rainbow Community, a sex worker who is living positively with HIV said his message for the day is that it’s time to include men in all HIV Programs to achieve an AIDS free world. #Bridgethegapandgettomen.
Akumu Deborah Leticia, Queersexworker Living with HIV and also the Advocacy and Networking Officer at Organisation For Gender Empowerment And Rights Advocacy Uganda (OGERA) said to end the HIV and AIDS epidemic, We need to ensure that sex workers have access to correct and appropriate, none discriminatory health services with creative innovative mechanisms through consultations.”
Sex workers encounter intersecting crises of HIV, Covid-19, criminalization of sex work and consensual adult same sex relations,gender inequality,stigma and discrimination and the African administrations and governments should advance strategic visions around securing a healthy future for sex workers as key to the Covid-19 response and to the prosperity and stability of their countries.Many factors do play a part in the choice people make to turn to sex work, but isn’t that the case for all work? Aren’t we all selling our time, often our physical labour, our emotional labour…that is what work is. Instead of going after the people who do sex work because that feels like the best option for them, we should be focusing on breaking the structural barriers that hinder sex work – looking at decriminalization of sex work, sex workers health and rights etc.
The Covid crisis has also elevated the importance of sexual and reproductive health-HIV integration for sex workers. With the lockdowns, clinics and hospitals reduced their services, significantly limiting access to sexual and reproductive health and HIV services. This, in turn, has contributed to the rise in sexually transmitted infections and though data is still scarce, we will likely see a similar rising rates of HIV infection.
Former and on-going sex workers HIV response should be an opportunity to learn from and build upon the lesson to enhance future global health response for sex workers in Africa.