Stop stigmatising sex workers – Ramaphosa

Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa


This was the message from Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa when he launched the National Sex Worker HIV Plan at the Turbine Hall in Newtown, Johannesburg.

Ramaphosa, in his capacity as the chairperson of the South African National Aids Council, said the National Sex Worker HIV Plan was a coordinated national sex worker HIV prevention, care and treatment plan. The initiative includes the provision of pre-exposure and early treatment for sex workers as core components of the health-care package and as advocated by the World Health Organisation.

The National Strategic Plan on HIV, Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and TB noted that sex workers needed a comprehensive and nationally co-ordinated response. This should include HIV care and treatment, and prevention services that address exacerbating factors such as alcohol and substance abuse by sex workers. The response should also incorporate access to justice and legal protection to address violence and harassment of sex workers, he said.

Ramaphosa said, “It is about affirming the right of all South Africans to life, to dignity, to health, regardless of their occupation and regardless of their circumstances… In launching the plan, we call on all sex workers to recognise the enormous power they have to help our nation in making Aids a thing of the past.

“We cannot reclaim the morality of society by excluding the most vulnerable among us.”

Ramaphosa added that whatever views individuals may hold about sex work, and whatever the statutes may say about the legality of it, people could not deny the humanity and inalienable rights of people who engage in this practice. “Like anyone else, they have dreams, customs, beliefs and faith,” he said.

“They too have mothers, fathers, families and children who love and appreciate them. They have the right to be treated with dignity, the right to their bodily integrity, and the right to say no.”

He said it was a matter of concern that while the department of health supplied sex workers with condoms to protect them from HIV, pregnancy and STIs, it was not uncommon for the police to confiscate these condoms. “We have one organ of the State providing a very necessary service and another organ of the State taking that very service away,” he concluded.

Aphiwe Boyce
Metro Reporter

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