AIC story of hope. Responding to the silent impact of COVID-19 among young women who identify themselves as sex workers
” Responding to the silent impact of COVID-19 among young women who identify themselves as sex workers ”
Sexual reproductive health, HIV and Gender based violence (SRH/ HIV / GBV) services are part of the very critical essential service package every woman deserves to access with minimal disruption! Specifically, adolescent girls, young women and Women who identify themselves as sex workers deserve such services even much more especially during the COVID19 lockdown which caused drastic changes in the routine models of service delivery even in the city like Kampala which is believed to have the best service coverage in Uganda .Being economically disadvantaged, the lockdown make the already vulnerable young women and adolescents girls much more vulnerable as they solely depends on free public health and social services!
‘I am now 25 years of age but never in my life had I been in such a situation where I couldn’t even afford getting basic medical treatment for family and myself ……’ lamented Fifie (not real name) a mother of 1 who recently joined commercial sex activity after a divorce from the father of her daughter with whom they had been married for 5 years. “After failing to conceive again for over 2 years, I was battered day and night coupled with forced sex and other countless forms of torture, I then decided to move on!” The couple lived in a single room in Ndeeba suburb –one of the renown KP hotspots in Kampala City. Divorce was a great relief but having no source of livelihood was even much more challenging, as she solely relied on the ex-husband for survival. The uphill task of caring for her child and 2 other siblings pushed her into sex work as she had witnessed some of her friends scoop fair returns in the activity.
“The recurrent STIs without treatment make work very uncomfortable especially now when we have very few clients to share and get money from due to the lockdown movement restrictions,,,,,, Fifie revealed”. Fifie had vowed to have no more live sex with clients as she engages multiple sexual partners, but this lockdown changed her safety trick! After developing itchy skin irritation around her private parts and unusual coloured discharge form her “goldmine”, she travelled twice to a nearby public health facility but failed to access medical care because there were no health workers to attend to her needs following the ban on public transport. “On various occasions, I have had no quick access to condoms yet there are few clients many of whom ask for live sex, this reduces negotiation powers as multitude of peer competitors await like hungry lions! it’s a month now since I resumed this unsafe practice, Fifie remembers in disbelief amidist fears of unintended consequences like HIV!”.
Being informed by a community mobiliser about free Door –to-door services offered to KPs by AIC mobile team with support from UNFPA was good news, but receiving the free medical services from extremely caring and professional team was more than an answered prayer! She was tested for HIV and screened for STIs. Fortunately, she was HIV negative but diagnosed with genital herpes -an STI and given medicines along with a box of condoms and education on extra protection! Fifie is among the several KPs whose hope has been restored through this AIC’s DO2DO innovative approach in responding to the COVID19_ lockdown SRH/HIV/GBV dilemma.
To her, the situation she is experiencing is just a mirror of what multitudes of women and young girls are silently facing with no one to help!