Doctors call for sex work to be legalised as Ramaphosa launches HIV plan

Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa.
Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa.

As Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa launched the National Sex Worker HIV Plan in Johannesburg today, doctors called for sex work to be decriminalised.

“We believe that decriminalisation of sex work is the next step towards protecting sex workers and their clients from HIV and other public health concerns,” said Michelle Robinson, spokesperson for the Southern African HIV Clinicians Society.

Ramaphosa launched the coordinated HIV prevention, care and treatment plan in his capacity as the chairperson of the South African National Aids Council.

The plan includes the provision of pre-exposure and early treatment for sex workers as core components of the healthcare package and as advocated by the World Health Organisation.

“The SA-HIV Society welcomes the news that the department of health will be providing pre-exposure prophylaxis to sex workers,” said Robinson.

According to the clinicians society, research has found high HIV prevalence among sex workers – of between 40% and 70% – in Cape Town, Durban and Johannesburg.

The National Strategic Plan on HIV, STI and TB 2012-2016 notes that sex workers need a comprehensive and nationally coordinated response.

This should include HIV care, treatment and prevention services that address exacerbating factors such as alcohol and substance use, including access to justice and legal protection to address violence and harassment of sex workers.

According to the plan, “It is estimated that 19.8% of all new HIV infections are related to sex work.”

The plan doesn’t rule out the decriminalisation of sex work. It says it “is a matter that has been a subject of debate and society should continue to deliberate on the matter until final resolution”.

*Click here for the full National Strategic Plan 

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