Mozambique National AIDS Council, UNFPA Host Conference Aimed at Discussing HIV Prevention Among Sex Workers
About 150 delegates from Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Swaziland and Zimbabwe on Wednesday attended the opening of a conference organized by Mozambique's National AIDS Council and the United Nations Fund for Population Activities in Maputo, Mozambique, to discuss a strategic plan aimed at addressing the spread of HIV among commercial sex workers, as well as the risks sex workers face, AIM/AllAfrica.com reports.
Ndolamb Ngokwey, coordinator of the United Nations System in Mozambique, at the conference said that discrimination against and marginalization of sex workers limit their access to quality health services, including testing and prevention for HIV and other sexually transmitted infections. He added that cultural attitudes about gender, the risky nature of sex work, and stigma and discrimination make sex workers vulnerable to HIV transmission. To "block the spread of HIV/AIDS, the actions of everyone are crucial," Ngokwey said, adding, "Taking into account that throughout the world in most cases HIV is transmitted sexually, the relation between the sex trade and HIV/AIDS is a fundamental concern in prevention and care efforts."
Virgilia Matabele, Mozambican minister of women's affairs and social welfare, said it is important to design concrete policies and strategies aimed at preventing all STIs to reduce the spread of HIV. "Reducing the vulnerability of the men and women [sex workers] must constitute the greatest challenge for our countries," Matabele said, adding that programs related to sex work and HIV should involve both prevention and treatment services, as well as the defense of sex workers' human rights (AIM/AllAfrica.com, 10/31).
According to AIM/AllAfrica.com, the nongovernmental organizations PSI/Mozambique and Pathfinder International in January trained a group of 22 women and eight health workers in an effort to prevent HIV transmission among sex workers. The program, titled "100 percent life," in February began operating in Maputo and provides voluntary HIV tests and treatment for HIV and other STIs, in addition to male and female condoms.
About 16 advocates distribute about 250 male condoms and 75 female condoms weekly through the program, according to Valeriana Rufino, an official with the program. From February to September, 146,200 male condoms and 8,880 female condoms, as well as information about STIs and correct condom use, were distributed to sex workers. In addition, the advocates encourage sex workers to receive HIV tests and negotiate condom use with clients. According to the advocates, many sex workers have begun to tell clients that they will not have sex without a condom (AIM/AllAfrica.com, 10/30).