70% sex workers living with HIV
MBABANE – About 70 per cent of the kingdom’s female sex workers are living with HIV, latest studies reveal.
This is an increase of about two per cent compared to figures compiled over two years ago.
Sex workers are classified as most at risk populations (MARPs) when it comes to HIV infection.
According to the ‘March 2012 Swaziland Country Report on Monitoring the Political Declaration on HIV and AIDS’, "69.7 percent of female sex workers are living with HIV".
This finding, the report states, is consistent with a 2009 United Nations General Assembly Special Session on HIV and AIDS (UNGASS) study where it was found that 68 per cent of sex workers who were interviewed confessed to knowing their HIV status to be positive.
Sex workers aged between 30 to 34 years have the highest HIV prevalence while those aged 15-19 have the lowest, the study further discovered.
A figure of 88.2 per cent of interviewed sex workers aged 30-34 were found to be HIV positive, while 40.9 per cent of those between 15 to 19 years are living with the virus.
Also 72.7 per cent of those aged between 35 to 39 were found to be HIV positive, while 81.8 per cent of those between 40-44 years are also positive and 50.5 per cent of those in the 45-49 age bracket were also found to be living with the virus.
The study, however, warns on statistics for those sex workers aged above 40 years: "Caution must be exercised in interpreting the results for those aged 40 and above because of the small sample size for that age group."
Despite the high HIV prevalence among the sex workers, the most encouraging information is the high condom usage with their clients.
Almost 10 years ago, in 2001 to be exact, an HIV Behavioural Surveillance Survey (BSS) found that the proportion of female sex workers reporting the use of condoms with their clients was 90 per cent, with 74 per cent using it consistently.
Some of the female sex workers revealed that they would agree to have sex without a condom for a higher fee.
The latest 2012 report states that preliminary findings of 2011 BSS MARPs indicate that 82.3 per cent of female sex workers reported to have used a condom when last having sex with their regular client and 87.7 per cent reported to have used a condom when last having sex with a new client.
"The findings, however, do not specify usage of a condom with the most recent client. The high numbers of female sex workers reporting condom usage with both regular and new client at last sex can be attributable to the strategy of condom distribution at ‘hot spots’ thereby increasing the accessibility of condoms," states the 2012 report.
In Swaziland, prostitution remains illegal but it is common knowledge that female sex workers are in abundance especially along the Mbabane – Manzini corridor.
In the capital city, they are seen mostly at a spot along the industrial site while at Ezulwini they are openly visible outside bars and nightclubs. The same applies at the populous Matsapha.
Swaziland remains the country with the highest HIV/AIDS prevalence rate in the world.
Mr Editor I am confused and I'm sure many Swazis feel the same way so I need your clarification. In many instances this newspaper has been referring to prostitutes as "sex workers" but as far as I'm aware so-called "sex work" is not recognized as a category of employment in this country. This is because prostitution is illegal as you have already mentioned. Could you kindly refer to prostitutes and prostitution the normal way instead of confusing our children. Bugwadla and tingwadla remain the same lakhaya. You people must be aware that even school-going children read this newspaper and it is not proper to lead them astray by glorifying things like prostitution and homosexuality. Please let us return to morality and human dignity. Let us not copy what other countries are doing.
May 7, 2012, 7:00 AM, Lobusika N Dlamini
Yes they deserve it bonabacangakutsi batawulala bangalitfoli bayahlanya
May 7, 2012, 7:00 AM, Bafana mkhota (firstname.lastname@example.org)