In pictures: Ensuring confidentiality, safety, and care for sex workers

Female sex workers

Meseret* and Melat*, volunteers

Known in their local community as demand creators, Meseret and Melat, from the Family Guidance Association of Ethiopia’s (FGAE) confidential clinic head out to visit sex workers in Jimma town.

This group of volunteers are former, or current, sex workers teaching others how to protect themselves from sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and unintended pregnancy. Their work is challenging, and they travel in pairs for safety - their messages are not always welcome.

Meseret* and Melat*, volunteers

Meseret and Melat from the Jimma clinic talk to sex workers in their local community about sexual health concerns, as well as provide contraception.

“It’s very difficult to convince sex workers to come to the clinic. Some sex workers tend to have no knowledge, even about how to use a condom.” says Meseret.

Melat, volunteer

It can be challenging persuading women that the staff at the confidential clinic are friendly towards sex workers and will keep their information private.

“When we try to tell people about HIV we can be insulted and told: ‘You are just working for yourself and earn money if you bring us in.’ They sometimes throw stones and sticks at us,” said 25-year-old Melat.

Fantaye, sex worker

Getting information and contraception to women often involves going out to find them, such as Fantaye, a sex worker currently living in a rental space in Mekelle.

Peer educators focus on areas populated with hotels and bars and broker's houses, where sex workers find clients.

Sister Mahader, FGAE

Sister Mahader from FGAEs' youth centre talks to sex workers in Mekelle, about sexual health, wellbeing, and various methods of contraception.

This outreach takes place weekly where information and advice is given to groups of women, and contraception is provided free of charge. Under threat from the loss of funding from the US Administration, the Jimma clinic has been forced to reduce the range of commodities available to its clients such as sanitary products, soap and water purification tablets.

Hiwot Abera*, sex worker

Hiwot* after her appointment at FGAEs confidential clinic in Jimma. The clinic offers free and bespoke healthcare including HIV and STI testing, treatment and counselling, contraceptives and safe abortion care.

Many sex workers have experienced stigma and discrimination at other clinics. In contrast, ensuring confidentiality and a safe environment for the women to talk openly is at the heart of FGAEs’ healthcare provision at its clinics.
*pseudonym

Photos: ©IPPF/Zacharias Abubeker