XVIII International AIDS Conference


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Social inclusion a mechanism to reduce vulnerability among female sex workers in Kingston Jamaica

J. Rodgers, M. Scott, L. Byfield, K. Lue

Ministry of Health, National HIV/STI Programme, Kingston, Jamaica

Issues: There is a HIV prevalence of 9% among the approximately 8000 Sex Workers in Jamaica. Many female sex workers are coerced into the sex trade at an early, while others do it to support their children and families. Early sexual initiation and pregnancy contribute to incomplete education and low literacy rates among this population. Limited access to documentation such as birth certificates and tax registration numbers further limit sex workers access to social services and jobs. These factors as well as the nature of their occupation, often lead to stigma and discrimination.
Description: The intervention for sex workers is multifaceted and includes providing information on reproductive health,HIV/STI risk reduction, voluntary counseling and testing, access to formal documentation and social services. Participants are recruited to the workshop by field workers who build relationships with proprietors and sex workers through weekly onsite visit at clubs, bars and street sites. Sex workers are invited to a series of six empowerment workshops. During the workshops the sex workers are assisted in securing formal documentation, including birth certificates and tax registration numbers, which will enable them to open bank accounts and become contributors to a national housing scheme.
Lesson learned: The HIV risk reduction and reproductive health information and services provided in the intervention are better accepted and utilized when sex workers are not as desperate for income because of their inability to access social services. Access to social services reduces poverty, stigma and discrimination
Recommendations: A consistently multi-faceted response to the HIV epidemic among sex workers including reduction of social vulnerability is needed to prevent the cycle of poverty for sex workers and their offspring.

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