HIV/AIDS has been a major menace in the world for a long time now. Specifically, the disease has been commonly affecting anyone regardless of their gender, age, ethnicity or any other characteristics which mean that neither is anyone safe nor immune to this dreadful disease. Concentrating on the study country, South Africa, it is saddening and evident that the country is among the top countries with the highest infection rates of HIV/AIDS. The country had a population of 5.6 million persons living with HIV/AIDS in 2010, and the trend was seen to go up by 1.4 million to 7 million infected persons of all ages in 2015 (Partnering to Achieve Epidemic Control in South Africa, 2017; UCSF, Anova Health Institute & WRHI, 2015). Specifically, HIV/AIDS lead to half the number of deaths that occurred in South Africa in 2010 and contributed to approximately 180,000 deaths in 2015 within the country. In other words, HIV/AIDS is one of the leading causes of high mortality in the country. Focusing more on the affected population, research indicates that HIV/AIDS infections are rampant among specific population groups within any given country meaning that those groups are at higher risks of getting infected by the disease than other the general population. For instance, the sex workers are a major constituent high-risk population groups with others including the men who have sex with men, injecting drug users, clients to sex workers, and young women aged between 15-24 years (UCSF, Anova Health Institute & WRHI, 2015).
Personally, the population group of sex workers constitutes my group of interest especially the female sex workers. The major reason behind this is that, even though prostitution is illegal in South Africa, it continues to be rampant and it is a major cause of the heightened rates of infection of the deadly disease. Therefore, it intrigues me to know that this ladies (sex workers) have ventured into the profession of commercial sex services yet they know the risks involved. The reasons of venturing into commercial sex work are diverse ranging from personal choices to situational or circumstantial choices. However, despite the reasons the female venture into being commercial sex workers, the reasons why HIV/AIDS remains rampant among them interests me more. For instance, I have heard of cases where the sex worker wants to satisfy her client in which case the client insists on not using protection (condoms or pills) and since the sex worker is in dire need of the money that the client will offer her, she just gives in to having unprotected sex. Interestingly, such are the cases I would support as the major causes of the prevalence of HIV/AIDS in the chosen population group. In other words, knowing that the disease is deadly and still venturing into the risky activity of prostitution stirs up a major interest in me to try and research and propose ways in which the prevalence of the disease among this group can be reduced. I want to know the detailed reasons for indulgence and the best means to free oneself from prostitution. If freeing oneself is not an option, I want to propose the best ways to impinge the need for protection and mitigation of the spread of HIV/AIDS among the sex workers and hopefully among the whole population.
Importance of the Problem to Human Service Professionals and Causes of the Problem
As a human service professional, I have an obligation to understand the cause of the amplified prevalence of HIV/AIDS among the sex workers (and the general population) so that I know how to handle patients from this population group. In other words, to empathize and sympathize with a victim of HIV/AIDS, I need to understand the drives or situations that may have placed her in such a difficult situation. I base this on the notion that I would better understand someones problem if I first understand the cause. That is to say, as a human service personnel, I would offer better proposals of the way forward if I understand what factors cause pre-exposure to the disease; I would advise the use of protection or even on the legal rights that the social worker has when it comes to dealing with her client. In that case, it would be good to mention major causes of the significant rates of HIV/AIDS infections among the sex workers constituting to the untimely mortality among them and their kin. According to UCSF, Anova Health Institute & WRHI (2015), high levels of poverty, low levels of formal education, and poor economic status have resulted in a lowered negotiation power for safer sex practices. In addition to that, the gender roles based on traditional foundations tend to be biased with the female on the losing end such that they are more victimized and prone to violence thus the heightened susceptibility to HIV/AIDS. On a broader basis, there is the aspect of increased drug abuse among the sex workers which increase their exposure and vulnerability to getting the infected.
Mainstream Attitudes in Society toward the Sex Worker with HIV/AIDS
A sex worker who is HIV/AIDS positive is met with a lot of discrimination within the society. The fact that she is a sex worker is tackled with a notion of illegality within South Africa and is accompanied by whorephobia reactions from the society (Mgbako, 2016). On the other hand, the fact that the same person has HIV/AIDS is associated with a lot of stigma and discrimination by the society. Due to this, the sex workers undergo much public humiliation and are marginalized within society. Unfortunately, even the law does suppress them to some extent (prostitution being illegal in South Africa) which leads to them being harassed even by the police. As UCSF, Anova Health Institute & WRHI (2015) put it; the sex workers are considered as an invisible population as they are discriminated and looked down upon by the general society.
Comparison of HIV/AIDS in Nigeria and South Africa among the Sex Workers
43.1% of the sex workers in Nigeria are living with HIV/AIDS while it ranges from around 59.6% in South Africa. In both cases, the prevalence of the disease among the female sex workers is substantially higher; even though South Africa has a higher prevalence where it ranges between 40- 80% while Nigeria has a prevalence of 27.4%. Even though the two countries have differing statistics about the prevalence of HIV/AIDS among the female sex workers and all the sex workers at large, it is important to mention that in both countries, the groups face the same challenges and also apply the same techniques to mitigate the spread of the disease. For example, in both countries the disease and the work are both met with a lot of stigma and discrimination and not to forget, they are treated as people who have violated the law (Ankomah et al., 2011; Campbell & Mzaidume, 2001). Further, both being African countries, the plight of the female is hinged upon inferiority such that those women in the sex work activities mostly end up being violated and mistreated by their clients. Such aspects, together with the aspect of poverty and economic difficulties lead to them being exposed to a lot of risky behavior that causes high HIV infection rates among them. In both countries also, the sex workers use condoms, pre- and post-prophylaxis and ARV medications to try and reduce the infections of the disease among themselves, their clients and the whole population. Additionally, the governments in both countries are at the forefront of fighting the disease where they offer funds to community-based organizations in a bid to spread the required resources such as condoms and other awareness and educative programs for the prevention of HIV (Ankomah et al., 2011; Campbell & Mzaidume, 2001). In other words, the population group of interest in the compared countries is vulnerable to the disease for nearly the same reasons.
Organization in South Africa and USA Dealing With HIV/AIDS Prevention among Sex Workers
In South Africa, the Sex Workers Education and Advocacy (SWEAT) is a major organization that deals with HIV/AIDS and legal issues among the sex workers. On the other hand, the United States Presidents Emergency Plan for Aids Relief (PEPFAR) is a major contributor towards dealing with HIV/AIDS in South Africa and has its roots in the United States. Notably, SWEAT is set out towards bettering the lives of the sex workers especially against the much discrimination and marginalization facing them within the society. As such, the organization has goals aimed at empowering the sex workers. In this case, the company works towards encouraging and offering platforms such as workshops, national toll-free help line and workshops through which the sex workers explore and voice their experiences and actualities, therefore, protesting for their human rights. Additionally, the organization offers peer education services in which they reach out to the sex workers and train them concerning their legal rights as humans and also offer health services and advice to them which entails HIV/AIDS monitoring. For instance, they create awareness on safer sex practices alongside which they provide lubricants and condoms among the sex workers in a bid to check HIV/AIDS (SWEEEP | SWEAT, 2017). In addition, the organization helps conduct friendly sex workers health services through the peer education programs which they run hand in hand with the mobile health clinic services. They offer parental support groups, training and education, and legal counseling services to the sex work so that they can improve their survival in South Africa. The major problems the organization faces is a lack of popularity within the country such that many sex workers do not know of the organizations existence. Further, most of the sex workers are not ready to share their experiences nor voice their actualities to the society. Hence, they organization has a harder time in accomplishing their major goals within the society.
In contrast, the United States Presidents Emergency Plan for Aids Relief (PEPFAR) through the Partnering to Achieve Epidemic Control in South Africa partnership framework contributes to prevention against HIV/AIDS. In this case, the organization enables protection and control of transmission of the disease through making investments to reduce further transmission and also strengthen the health care services towards the same. To narrow down to the sex workers population group, the organization has specific attention towards the high-risk population among which are the sex workers (Partnering to Achieve Epidemic Control in South Africa, 2017). To this group, the organization invests in providing sustainable clinical support; supporting services that enhance HIV/AIDS prevention; preventing mother-to-child HIV transmission for those positive sex workers who happen to get children. Additionally, the organization, through partnering with local South African organizations and the Government of South Africa can offer services such as HIV testing and counseling and provision of medical services entailing the antiretroviral drugs. The major problem faced by the PEPFAR organization is embezzlement of funds by some organizations within South Africa which reduces the overall impact the organization has on the prevention and control of HIV/AIDS within the country.
A Relevant Website, Movie/Documentary, and Book about HIV/AIDS
For a sex worker in South Africa, I would recommend the SWEAT website with a specific focus on the SISONKE function of the SWEAT organization. As already hinted out, the website belongs to the SWEAT organization and SISONKE is a part of what the company does within the society. Visiting this website is meant to inform the sex worker that there exist platforms through which the sex worker can help make her life better. For instan...
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