The notion that all members of the population should have access to available health care services is being amplified by Youth Challenge Guyana (YCG), even as the Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO) seeks to direct focus to Sex Workers in Region Eight.
The sex trade is one that has been found to be rampant in the gold mining Region, particularly in the Mahdia environ, so much so that sex workers are no longer uncomfortable with disclosing their profession.
At least this is according to YCG’s Executive Director, Dmitri Nicholson, who during an interview with this publication, informed that “I have found more women are more open to saying they are into sex work…I don’t know whether it is an increase in the trade but I do know that they have become very comfortable with the service they offer.”
And it was in recognition of the health concerns associated with the burgeoning trade that proactive moves were recently employed by YCG whereby at least one-third of its budget is directed to targeting those involved in sex trade activities.
However, YCG’s work in this regard commenced several years ago through collaboration with the USAIDS/GHARP programme, which targeted both Commercial Sex Workers, as well as miners who are known to be the primary clients.
The programme, according to Nicholson, has since been moving from strength to strength, whereby those in the target Region, sex workers in particular, now have a better understanding of how to protect themselves from HIV and other sexually transmitted infections. “They have been giving us the needful feedback and they are requesting more condoms and are also informing their peers about condom use and have even been engaged in demonstration exercises as well,” Nicholson disclosed.
The YCG outreach operation is supervised by its Health Manager, Alana Walters, who along with others from Georgetown are tasked with visiting the Region on a monthly basis to facilitate Voluntary Counselling and Testing. However, a team, complete with a social worker, providing psychosocial support and counselling and a prevention officer, is required to remain on the ground to spearhead the activities in the Region, Walters said.
The team, she disclosed, also includes a peer educator, who once was a sex trade provider and has been very instrumental in reaching the target populations since she “knows how to get around with the sex workers; where the spots are and even the ‘language’ they use.”
And according to Walters, over the period February to July, YCG has been able to reach a total of 102 sex workers, of which 101 have been counselled, tested and appear receptive of the information and materials, including condoms and lubricants, provided to them.
She disclosed too that “sex workers are very keen on getting tested, especially the ones who we have encountered. They are very open to accepting condoms because they understand the risk of having multiple partners.”
Moreover, Walters is confident that the information provided to them has placed them in a better position to understand the signs and symptoms that could characterise health concerns, including urinary tract infections.
In addition to offering HIV Education to the sex workers, Walters said, much focus is also directed to the importance of personal hygiene, since YCG recognises that “the two are sort of linked and we do a lot of work in this area.” As such, sex workers are encouraged to be wary of having clients insert their fingers or other foreign objects into their private parts, according to Walters.
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