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SA to launch Aids plan for sex workers

17 December 2013

South Africa's plan to help protect sex workers against HIV and help them access treatment is a "flagship model" that should be followed by the rest of the world, Mark Dybul of the Global Fund to Fight Aids, Tuberculosis and Malaria told Africa’s biggest Aids conference held in Cape Town last week.

Dybul lauded South Africa’s National Strategic Plan for HIV Prevention, Care and Treatment for Sex Workers as a comprehensive plan that "showed remarkable leadership and (was) a flagship of how we must respond not only on this continent but around the world", Business Day reported.

Dybul was speaking at the International Conference on AIDS and Sexually Transmitted Diseases in Africa on 10 December.

Scaling up

The plan was developed by South African National Aids Council (Sanac), the Sex Workers’ Education and Advocacy Taskforce (Sweat), Sisonke Sex Workers Movement and the departments of Social Development and Health, among others. It will form a part of the country's National Strategic Plan for HIV and AIDS, TB and STIs 2012 – 2016.

The plan involves a significant scaling up of a comprehensive HIV prevention package, improving services, reducing the discrimination against sex workers and mobilising resources, Business Day says. It aims to increase access to HIV treatment for the estimated 153 000 sex workers in South Africa, reduce the violence and human rights abuses perpetrated against them and to promote their well being.

Fareed Abdullah, Sanca’s chief executive, writes in the foreword to the plan that addressing the health of sex workers is "crucial to our plans to combat the spread of HIV" in South Africa as they are most at risk of acquiring HIV and other sexually transmitted infections".

Dybul reportedly said it was "appalling" that sex workers were 12 times less likely to receive antiretroviral treatment than other people. He said their rights had to be respected and they had to be brought into the human family and given choices regarding what to do with their lives.

The launch of the plan, which was due to take place at the conference on Tuesday last week, has been postponed until 2014 out of respect for the passing of Nelson Mandela, South Africa’s former president, who died on 5 December.

The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria donated R3-billion in October to South Africa for its HIV/Aids programmes, an amount which will supplement prevention and referral services for two-and-a-half years.

Further funding from the organisation will assist specific HIV health services for sex workers in the future, Sanca's Rentia Agenbag told SAinfo.

Business Day and SAinfo reporter

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