Jamra primary scholl for children affected by HIV/AIDS, drugs or poverty, Senegal (c) Nell Freeman/Alliance Participants in the Photovioce project, Ecuador © Marcela Nievas for the Alliance
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Life skills training for sex workers

30
JUN
2010

Althea, a community animator in the Alliance © David Gasser

Althea, 24, is a former dancer. Since she left the entertainment industry she has wanted to use her experiences and knowledge to benefit other women in Antigua.

She has received training through Alliance linking organisation, the Caribbean HIV and AIDS Alliance, and other health organisations, and is a trained HIV counsellor, working both through the Antigua National AIDS Program, and delivering pre-test counselling in the field. For the last four years Althea has been reaching out to migrant sex workers, to help them make safer sex choices.

Sex workers and their clients are at heightened risk of HIV, yet less than 1% of global funding for HIV prevention is spent on HIV and sex work.  In the Caribbean, UNAIDS estimates that prevalence of HIV among sex workers is as high as 27% in some countries, and migration of sex workers between islands is common.

In her role as a community animator for the Caribbean HIV and AIDS Alliance, Althea brought a group of women together to provide HIV knowledge and help build life skills.

Community animators, like Althea, are community peers. This is essential not just in delivering the training, but getting the women together in the first place. In a climate where migrant sex workers routinely face stigma and discrimination, mobilising even a small group of women is a significant success.

By coming together the women were able to identify and share problems, explore self esteem, and make plans for the future.

TRICKY BUSINESS

The women identified personal safety as a main concern, including fear of violence from clients, and also ‘tricky’ clients who try and remove condoms during sex.

Through the support of Althea, and the rest of the group, the women decided they needed to help each other more. From sharing information about clients who are violent or refuse to pay, to using danger code words - and generally looking out for each other.

FUTURE PLANS

Factors such as a lack of employment opportunities result in women entering sex work. All the women shared their own goals for the future, which included going back to school or into business, and a priority for all was providing education for their children.

Althea supported these plans with a practical session on budgeting. She explained how this was important because: “Being broke can make you do desperate things, like having sex without condoms for a high price.”

The group reflected on how to better budget to achieve the goals they had identified for themselves – and since then, they’ve all begun saving, something Althea is immensely proud of.

‘By developing better saving habits, it will put sex workers less at risk because they won’t be in desperate financial situations’.  This training will help them to achieve goals so they will have more choices in life’.

FOLLOWING THE SUCCESS

Following Althea’s success, the Caribbean HIV and AIDS Alliance plans to hold more of these workshops on a regular basis, so more women can benefit. The second workshop of this kind is running this week.

    Being broke can make you do desperate things, like having sex without condoms for a high price