Sex workers educated through training

Published: March 1, 2012

Everybody dreams of having a secure and respectable job. Especially for women who need to support their families, but the hardships they face may drive them into prostitution. Being a prostitute, however, does not mean they have no right to proper healthcare and welfare.

With this in mind, Kusiyah, a peer educator with Kenanga Indah Community — a community of sex workers in Banjarmasin, South Kalimantan — tries to educate prostitutes about minimizing the risks of their job.

“They are in a group with a high risk of contracting HIV. We pay more attention to HIV infection and how to avoid becoming a victim by conducting a variety of prevention activities,” Kusiyah said.

She spoke recently at a meeting of community-based HIV/AIDS and STD-prevention projects funded by Netherlands-based Oxfam-Novib.

The six-year projects are being conducted in four provinces: Central Java, Central Kalimantan, East Kalimantan and South Kalimantan.

Supported by activists from the Indonesian Family Planning Association (PKBI), Kusiyah and her friends in the community promote safe sex and HIV awareness through education and information counseling not only among sex workers but also their clients.

“Condoms can prevent HIV and other sexually-transmitted diseases. We try to convince the clients that using a condom is important in preventing infections,” she said.

Condom use has to be part of HIV-prevention programs as most HIV infections are transmitted through sexual intercourse. As of 2010, however, the rate of condom use in high-risk groups was only 16 percent for men and 32 percent for women, far lower than the 70 percent rate needed to stop HIV transmission, according to Health Ministry data.

Fahmi Arizal, the coordinator of the community-based HIV and STD-prevention projects, said sex workers had so far been the sole target of the anti-HIV campaign.

“We encourage them to actively promote condom use with their clients,” he told The Jakarta Post.

 Without a more active participation by men in preventing the disease, HIV infection might continue to increase.

In the six-year program, instructors from the PKBI give sex-worker communities assistance on how to develop local policies that can create a shared-participation on HIV prevention.

“There should be a clear definition among the community members of the roles each can play to prevent the spread of HIV,” Fahmi said.

In the project, the communities also set up a variety of business activities, such as a barbershop, welding shop and auto repair shop, to empower their economy. Kenanga Sehat Community, for example, owns a clinic which is open to the public.

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