A survey by the Ministry of Health has revealed the secret double lives of Batswana prostitutes: They have steady boyfriends, work as nurses, bankers, teachers or attend school as students during the day and moonlight as sex workers at night.
According to the survey of the Most At Risk Populations (MARPS) that was presented at the National Aids Council this week, 49.5 percent of sex workers are in the category of between 20 and 29 years age.?The survey states that “these are normally school going or employable women”. ┬áThe survey also states that 50.9 percent of sex workers have steady boyfriends while 51.4 percent had been to Senior Secondary School.?The study says 60 percent of the respondents had no other employment, suggesting that 40 percent are employed. It emerged at the meeting that some of the respondents of the survey are nurses, bankers, teachers and other gainfully employed persons.?The survey states that as in the general population, younger sex workers are less likely to be HIV positive.?HIV prevalence for those over 30 years was over 77percent, suggesting that out of 10 sex workers, 8 are HIV positive.?Director of HIV/AIDS prevention and care in the Ministry of Health, Dr Refeletswe Lebelonyana, told the council that it was disheartening that the MARPs survey has indicated that sex workers were reportedly anybody, including people with secure employment and in stable relationships.?According to Lebelonyana, people were engaged in street sex regardless of whether they were married, which she said, contributed to the spread of HIV.?
Non-consistent condom usage was noted during the survey which revealed that many people were at high risk of getting HIV, he said.?Lebelonyana called for expansion of access to HIV treatment for key populations to reduce viral load and further transmission and the promotion of sexually transmitted infections screening and enhanced risk reduction counselling for female sex workers.?She also revealed that police harassed sex workers instead of protecting them against their violence.?┬á“Policemen at night become mean. Even with the existence of gay and lesbian people in our culture, Botswana has been a peaceful nation for several decades, upholding the ideals of human rights and Botho. But sex workers are subjected to the most inhumane and degrading treatment by service men in uniform. Men who they should be running to for protection against violations they face in their line of duty,” said Lebelonyana.??Officiating at the event the Vice President Dr Ponatshego Kedikilwe stressed the need to address moral degradation among youth and the nation at large.?He said parents need to understand their children and talk to them on issues of livelihood, development and social relationships.?
“Our culture and heritage can go a long way in re-invigorating the moral and social fibre of Batswana,” said Kedikilwe.?He observed that the nation was faced with a complex challenge of dealing with sexual relations whose understanding by society was still relatively primeval.?Contacted for comment, outgoing Botswana Network on Ethics, Law and HIV/AIDS (BONELA), Uyapo Ndadi, expressed hope that government has moved from what he called denialism to pragmatism.?“We now want to face issues we have been denying or avoiding so many years. We now realise that for us to get to zero new HIV infections by 2016, we all have to be involved. All I mean is to include sex workers and gays. The Vice President acknowledged this; which is fantastic. The days of business as usual are neither cost effective nor sustainable,” said Uyapo.?He said he had argued for decriminalisation of homosexuality and sex work.
“I am heartened that yesterday I enjoyed massive support from quarters that used to be violently opposed to my thoughts! It is vindication after 10 years.”?Ndadi said Ministers and Permanent Secretaries are now speaking BONELA’s language and are doing so with more eloquence and conviction.?“For once, I didn’t feel like an activist yesterday because the VP, Ministers and senior government officials humbled me! They were the activists! I am optimistic that before I leave in December, good things would have happened. I hate to see people die of AIDS and addressing its drivers gives me utmost joy and zeal,” said Ndadi.?
Meanwhile, Ndadi condemned what he called the discriminatory and hurtful views of the Evangelical Fellowship of Botswana on the issue of homosexuality in Botswana.?While BONELA respects the views of all citizens of Botswana and the debatable position of Christianity regarding homosexuality, Ndadi said, they strongly challenge and detest the perpetuation of intolerance, discrimination and disruption of peace based on religious fundamentalism.?“Even with the existence of gay and lesbian people in our culture, Botswana has been a peaceful nation for several decades, upholding the ideals of human rights and Botho. ┬áThe views of the EFB will only bring and justify violence, instability and insecurity for all Batswana,” said Ndadi.