Dignitas International has cautioned against stigmatising sex workers in the fight against HIV and Aids.
The organisation’s key populations officer George Mulewa made the remarks on Friday in Phalombe on the sidelines of a District Executive Committee (DEC) meeting where he sensitised heads of government departments and non-governmental organisations to embracing sex workers in health services.
He said his organisation noted that sex workers in the district get negative reactions from both health workers and community members when they visit health facilities.
“During our interactions with sex workers in the district, we received many complaints concerning stigma against sex workers. Some of them are still being abused by the police, a thing which ought to be history by now.
“That is why we decided to engage the DEC on the issue so that they can understand how important it is to help these sex workers live safe lives so that they, too, can take the message to their respective sectors,” explained Mulewa.
He further said when HIV-positive sex workers fail to access treatment such as anti-retroviral therapy (ART) due to stigma, chances of spreading the virus increase which, in turn, haunts the whole population.
Commenting on the issue, Phalombe district Aids coordinator Harrison Phiri said one of the most reliable indicators of the existence of stigma is the way sex workers shun taking part in public activities for fear of being ridiculed.
Dignitas said sex workers are one of the key populations involved in the spread of HIV.
Dignitas International is implementing an HIV and Aids project to fight for the rights of key population members to access health services as one way of minimising the spread of the virus. n