South African Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa has said that the newly-launched National Sex Worker HIV Plan — which will provide anti-retroviral (ARV) drugs to sex workers — is about citizens’ rights and affirming the equal worth of all citizens.
The Deputy President launched the plan in his capacity as the chairperson of the South African National Aids Council. The National Sex Worker HIV Plan is a coordinated national sex worker HIV prevention, care and treatment plan, the first of its kind in Africa and the country as well, he said.
“It is about affirming the rights of all South Africans to life, dignity and health, regardless of their occupation, sexual orientation and circumstances,” Ramaphosa said at the launch held in Johannesburg, adding that the plan would not succeed if sex workers were ignored, neglected, forgotten, disregarded, marginalized and stigmatized.
The plan includes the provision of pre-exposure and early treatment for sex workers as core components of the health care package, as advocated by the UN World Health Organization. The National Strategic Plan on HIV, STIs and TB (2012-2016) states that sex workers needed a comprehensive and nationally coordinated response.
This should include HIV care, treatment and prevention services that address exacerbating factors such as alcohol and substance use, including access to justice and legal protection — to address violence and harassment of sex workers. He therefore called on all sex workers to realize the power they hold in their hands to help the nation make HIV/AIDS a thing of the past.
“Use this plan to help our nation fight the scourge of HIV/AIDS. Sex work is essentially work,” Ramaphosa said to applause.