Need to link police harassment & HIV among sex workers

  • Kim Johnson - 30 November 2012

An article on the police’s harsh treatment (and sometimes outright abuse) of sex workers doesn’t consider the implications that persecution has on this at-risk group’s access to HIV prevention and treatment.

Despite past coverage making the link between harassment of sex workers by police and HIV risk, a two-page article in this week’s DRUM does not draw these parallels.

Previous reports featured first hand accounts from sex workers operating in South Africa who allege that police have confiscated condoms and ARVs.

These actions clearly have serious consequences for HIV treatment and prevention among sex workers, which in turn affects HIV incidence among the general population.

However DRUM is not solely at fault for failing to consider the HIV-angle inherent in coverage of sex workers and unfair treatment and abuse by police.

The Sex Workers Education and Advocacy Taskforce (SWEAT), which provided comment for the story, could have taken the opportunity to turn the spotlight on HIV.

Not only would this have made the story more realistic, it would also up the ante on the seriousness of addressing sex workers’ vulnerability to abuse.

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“These actions clearly have serious consequences for HIV treatment and prevention among sex workers”