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Seminar equips sex workers on HIV

 

Mapoloko Leteka

Nthatuoa Koeshe

ON average, sex workers are 10 times more likely to become infected with the HIV pandemic than the general population, according to studies.

This statistic becomes even more disconcerting when considering that Lesotho has a HIV-prevalence rate of 25 percent among adults aged between 15 and 49 years, according to the Demographic and Health Survey.

The DHS also states that the HIV-prevalence rate is 30 percent among women and 19 percent among men, with Maseru topping all the districts at 28 percent.

With this in mind, nonprofit organisation Care for Basotho held a seminar for sex workers on Friday to educate them on HIV/AIDS and other sexually-transmitted diseases (STDs) as well as equipping them with knowledge on how to prevent contraction.

The seminar, which was held at the Central Park in Maseru, was attended by sex workers and representatives of organisations dealing with sexual and reproductive health.

Among the attendees were 30 sex workers who were trained as peer educators by Care for Basotho.

Addressing the gathering, the organisation’s Project Manager Mapoloko Leteka said the 30 peer educators were trained to disseminate sexual health information to their colleagues.

“We realised that sex workers are the most neglected group of people in society, and yet they are the most infected by HIV,” she said.

“So, we trained 30 sex workers on how to protect themselves against HIV/AIDS for them to go out and spread the knowledge to their peers.”

Ms Leteka explained that the 30 peer educators were also equipped with interpersonal skills to teach their colleagues to make safe choices for themselves when dealing with clients.

She also clarified that Care for Basotho did not promote prostitution but was focused on stemming the further spread of HIV and other STDs in collaboration with the sex workers.

“This get together is meant to help us get to know each other and commend the 30 peer educators with the work they do,” she said, adding that they also wanted to reach out to other sex workers and encourage them to get tested for STDs.

Care for Basotho’s initiatives, Ms Leteka said, were also in keeping with the 90-90-90 treatment targets set out in the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV and Aids Fast-Track Strategy.

Launched in 2014, the ambitious treatment target seeks to have 90 percent of all people living with HIV knowing their HIV status, 90 percent of all people diagnosed with HIV receiving sustained antiretroviral therapy and 90 percent of all people receiving antiretroviral therapy having viral suppression by 2020.

“Today, we have organisations such as Population Services International to help with the testing, Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation to assist with medication, and Lesotho Planned Parenthood Association to aid with the provision of family planning services to avoid unplanned pregnancies,” she said.

One of the sex workers who is also a peer educator, *Puleng Majoe, commended the holding of the inaugral seminar, saying it imparted valuable information that would save lives.

“We sometimes come across sex workers who don’t take what we say seriously,” she said.

“Other sex workers have accused us of thinking we know too much as peer educators. So, this event will be helpful for us and the sex workers.”

 

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