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Sunday, 13 September 2015 07:35

Pakachere rolls out female sex workers project in Mangochi

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Sex workers - File Photo

Mangochi, September 11, 2015: Pakachere Institute of Health and Development Communication has embarked on four year linkages across the continuum of HIV services for key populations in Mangochi.

The project which is being supported by the United States Agency for International Development will apart from Mangochi also be carried out in Blantyre and Mwanza basing on their HIV prevalence rates.

At least 3,776 female sex workers will be reached through the 52 testing sessions to be conducted by the Malawi Aids Counseling and Resource Centre each year in the three participating districts.

Mangochi has been selected because it is a lakeshore district while Blantyre because of its commercial city status and Mwanza being a transit district because of the busy border to Mozambique, Zimbabwe and South Africa among others.

Speaking during a district executive committee meeting on Wednesday, Pakachere executive director, Simon Sikwese said the intervention which specifically targets female sex workers in the three districts would attempt to increase health services to the intended population.

“Under the project, we're trying to increase access to treatment and care services to female sex workers in order to improve quality of life for those found HIV positive,” Sikwese said.

Sikwese said the linkages programme would work in line with the national HIV strategic plan and the HIV strategy which aims at reaching the 90, 90, 90 target.

“You'll notice that the focus is on female sex workers because the HIV prevalence rate among such a group of people still remains high at 62 percent against the national average which is at 10.2 pecent,” he pointed out.

Sikwese said the intervention would deliberately empower female sex workers to create demand for services by working with public health facilities. He added that the project will build a good relationship between sex workers and health workers to jointly address challenges when and as they arise.

He emphasised that over and above, the project aims at building the capacity of existing health services to provide stigma free services to female sex workers using the cascade model which thrives on reach, testing, treatment and follow up to adherence to ART treatment.

“The linkages initiative works on the premise that when a person adheres to treatment, they will effectively suppress viral load thereby reducing further transmission in the process,” Sikwese said.

On this note, Sikwese said Pakachere was only following government's commitment towards HIV prevention especially among key population like transgender and female sex workers. He observed that such groups were at high risk of transmission.

“We realize that if these people were left out then the fight against HIV and Aids will not be won - HIV/Aids free generation is possible if we address all the categories of people in society,” he said.

Director of Planning and Development for Mangochi District Council, Walter Chikuni hailed Pakachere for the initiative, saying Mangochi required more HIV interventions because of its socio - cultural background and fishing activities.

Chikuni, however, asked Pakachere to consider engaging other cadres like fishermen, prisoners and truck drivers who were equally among key populations susceptible to contracting the virus as such needed to be safeguarded with HIV prevention strategies.

He, therefore, assured Pakachere that the council would provide the project the necessary support in a bid to yield better results. He also advised authorities of the organisation to periodically report to the DEC.

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