We Need Affordable Medical Aid says Sex Workers

SEX workers have bemoaned the lack of affordable medical health insurance as a hindrance to them accessing basic sexual reproductive health services, HealthTimes has learnt.

By Michael Gwarisa

Speaking to some ladies of the trade who pligh their profession along Mbuya Nehanda street in Harare, they said being a sex worker should be treated as a job just like teaching or nursing and medical aid companies should tailor-make packages that suit low income earning groups like vendors and sex workers.

“As you are aware my brother, when you see us here it’s not like we are waiting just to have fun but we are also working. As a profession, Sex work is a high risk job and we are exposed to so many health issues. At least these medical aid companies should have packages ranging from $2 a month, that much we can afford.

“Unfortunately, some medical Aid companies would not take us on board the moment we disclose the nature of our jobs. We are exposed to Sexually transmitted infections (STIs), HIV, injuries from rowdy clients. Some medical aid companies do not cover for conditions like HIV and that puts us at risk,” said one sex worker who only identified herself as Thrish.

Meanwhile, funding towards Key population activities in Zimbabwe has been little despite organizations like the Global Fund pouring in funds meant for HIV interventions including key population activities.

Sexual Rights Centre (SRC) official, Unoziba Tenga said funding towards sex workers and also members of the gay community was too little and lack of  affordable health insurance was a stumbling block to key populations accessing health services.

“As compared to other populations, funding towards KP interventions is minimal but we are made to feel grateful about the little we get. And when we do get the funding, it is not channeled through to the organisations that directly work with KPs.

“The cost to access service: lack of medical aid, cash shortages, high unemployment rate Sub-standard services in public hospitals, shortage of medication,” said Tenga. 

According to the Ministry of Health and Child Care  there are about 44 586 sex workers in the country aged between 15 and 49 years and nearly 7 000 of them operate in Bulawayo.

Meanwhile, the HIV prevalence rate for sex workers stands at 55% compared to the 13% national average.

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