Jul 11, 2013 | News

  1. Home
  2.  » 
  3. News

Sex work is often referred to as the oldest profession. We know that sex workers exist and that they operate in every major city, as well as in rural areas, but until now there has been no indication of how many sex workers there are in the country. A new study of South African sex workers has revealed that South Africa has 153 000 sex workers (figures range between 132 000 and 182 000).

The National Sex Worker Population Size Estimation study was conducted in recognition of the fact that sex workers are highly vulnerable to HIV and AIDS. Since sex worker numbers were not known until now, developing robust and evidenceinformed responses for HIV-prevention programming suited to this key population group has been difficult. Information gathered in the study will inform the development of a National Sex Work Strategic Plan, linked to the NSP.

Furthermore, to convince policy makers and funders of the existence and magnitude of any public health problem, it is necessary to have a reliable estimate of the size of the population at risk.
The study marks a new chapter in South Africa’s response to HIV and AIDS, as it will provide government and other stakeholders with data to make evidence-based decisions on how to create an enabling environment for the provision and accessibility of HIV-prevention services for sex workers.

The study was conducted across 12 sites in all nine provinces chosen because they ranged from low to high population density, have a vibrant female sex work trade, and/or a high proportion of immigrants and economic migrants. The estimate includes establishment-based, street-based and home-based sex workers.
The study was conducted by the Sex Worker Education and Advocacy Task-force, with funding and technical support from SANAC. Full details of the study will be released at the forthcoming South African AIDS conference in Durban, which will be held from 18 – 21 June this year.

by Coceka Nogoduka and Khopotso Bodibe 
Coceka Nogoduka is a Senior Technical Officer seconded to SANAC by the Family Health International 360 for the implementation of the Belinda Gates Foundation project, “Disseminating the Avahan Lessons in South Africa”