By: Dyson Kamwana
Female sex workers in Nkhotakota district say there is a need for the community to get rid of negative attitudes towards them, saying they are also human beings who are able to contribute to the development of the country.
One of the Female Sex Workers Salah Mwale has told Umunthu FM online that they have been facing different forms of discrimination in their working places, as the community deems them as people of immoral behavior.
Mwale, said under the Covid-19 Response Mechanism Project implemented by Family Planning Association of Malawi (FPAM), negative perceptions against sex workers have drastically declined.
“The coming in of FPAM has accorded us an opportunity to be agents of change by reaching out to our fellow sex workers on how they can protect themselves and customers from the pandemic,” Mwale said.
She added that the project has also assisted female sex workers to establish a good relationship between them, community as well as hospital personnel, a situation which is helping them to access hospital services without challenges.
“In the past, when we wanted to get hospital services like testing for HIV, we were getting different kinds of discrimination. Currently, we are able to access services and also encourage our friends to get tested for HIV and if found positive they should be on Antiretroviral Therapy (ART),” she said.
Nkhotakota District Hospital Clinical Officer, Geoffrey Mande commended FPAM for the project saying it has laid a platform for reaching out to the group which for so long has been sidelined.
“These people need not be left out in all health interventions aimed at curbing HIV or COVID 19 pandemics because they meet a large number of people due to the nature of their job,” Mande said.
In his remarks, FPAM’s Social Behavior Change and Communications Officer Andrew Bishop Mkandawire said that with the pace the country has taken evidenced by current statistics which are showing a positive decrease in new HIV infections, Malawi will achieve the 2025 United Nations program on HIV/AIDS 95 95 95 ambitious target.
Mkandawire said the organization is working with various groups of the society including female sex workers, rest house and bar owners to enable them be message carriers on the importance of getting tested for HIV as well as encouraging fellow sex workers diagnosed with HIV to be on antiretroviral therapy.
On Saturday 18th February 2023, Family Planning Association of Malawi (FPAM) organized a meeting at Nkhotakota District Hospital aimed at brainwashing sex workers on the need to take a leading role in disseminating COVID 19 prevention messages in their respective hotspots.
During the meeting, FPAM has also donated Covid-19 preventive materials and 15 bicycles to Nkhotakota District Health Office (DHO) which will be distributed to the sex workers who are working as Peer Educators, Peer Navigators and Outreach workers to minimize mobility challenges during COVID-19 as well as HIV/AIDS message dissemination.