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Latest stories from IPPF

Spotlight

A selection of stories from across the Federation

Humanitarian response team, Fiji.
Story

In pictures: Humanitarian photographers share their experiences of storytelling in the field

IPPF’s localized approach to humanitarian emergencies is led by our Member Associations' response teams and whenever possible, we deploy local photographers.
Healthcare worker
story

| 14 January 2021

“Most NGOs don’t come here because it’s so hard to reach”

Dressed in a sparkling white medical coat, Alinafe runs one of Family Planning Association of Malawi (FPAM) mobile clinics in the village of Chigude. Under the hot midday sun, she patiently answering the questions of staff, volunteers and clients - all while heavily pregnant herself.  Delivering care to remote communities  “Most NGOs don’t come here because it’s so hard to reach,” she says, as women queue up in neat lines in front of two khaki tents to receive anything from a cervical cancer screening to abortion counselling. Without the mobile clinic, local women risk life-threatening health issues as a result of unsafe abortion or illnesses linked to undiagnosed HIV status. According to the Guttmacher Institute, complications from abortion are the cause of 6–18% of maternal deaths in Malawi.    District Manager Alinafe joined the Family Planning Association of Malawi in 2016, when she was just 20 years old, after going to nursing school and getting her degree in public health. She was one of the team involved in the Linkages project, which provided free family planning care to sex workers in Mzuzu until it was discontinued following the 2017 Global Gag Rule.  Seeing the impact of lost funding on care  “This change has reduced our reach,” Alinafe says, explaining that before the Gag Rule they were reaching sex workers in all four traditional authorities in Mzimba North - now they mostly work in just one. She says this means they are “denying people services which are very important” and without reaching people with sexual and reproductive healthcare, increasing the risk of STIs.    The reduction in healthcare has also led to a breakdown in the trust FPAM had worked to build in communities, gaining support from those in respected positions such as chiefs.    “Important people in the communities have been complaining to us, saying why did you do this? You were here, these things were happening and our people were benefiting a lot but now nothing is good at all,” explains Alinafe.    Still, she is determined to serve her community against the odds - running the outreach clinic funded by Global Affairs Canada five times a week, in four traditional authorities, as well as the FPAM Youth Life Centre in Mzuzu.  “On a serious note, unsafe abortions are happening in this area at a very high rate,” says Alinafe at the FPAM clinic in Chigude. “Talking about abortions is a very important thing. Whether we like it or not, on-the-ground these things are really happening, so we can’t ignore them.”

Healthcare worker
story

| 25 May 2022

“Most NGOs don’t come here because it’s so hard to reach”

Dressed in a sparkling white medical coat, Alinafe runs one of Family Planning Association of Malawi (FPAM) mobile clinics in the village of Chigude. Under the hot midday sun, she patiently answering the questions of staff, volunteers and clients - all while heavily pregnant herself.  Delivering care to remote communities  “Most NGOs don’t come here because it’s so hard to reach,” she says, as women queue up in neat lines in front of two khaki tents to receive anything from a cervical cancer screening to abortion counselling. Without the mobile clinic, local women risk life-threatening health issues as a result of unsafe abortion or illnesses linked to undiagnosed HIV status. According to the Guttmacher Institute, complications from abortion are the cause of 6–18% of maternal deaths in Malawi.    District Manager Alinafe joined the Family Planning Association of Malawi in 2016, when she was just 20 years old, after going to nursing school and getting her degree in public health. She was one of the team involved in the Linkages project, which provided free family planning care to sex workers in Mzuzu until it was discontinued following the 2017 Global Gag Rule.  Seeing the impact of lost funding on care  “This change has reduced our reach,” Alinafe says, explaining that before the Gag Rule they were reaching sex workers in all four traditional authorities in Mzimba North - now they mostly work in just one. She says this means they are “denying people services which are very important” and without reaching people with sexual and reproductive healthcare, increasing the risk of STIs.    The reduction in healthcare has also led to a breakdown in the trust FPAM had worked to build in communities, gaining support from those in respected positions such as chiefs.    “Important people in the communities have been complaining to us, saying why did you do this? You were here, these things were happening and our people were benefiting a lot but now nothing is good at all,” explains Alinafe.    Still, she is determined to serve her community against the odds - running the outreach clinic funded by Global Affairs Canada five times a week, in four traditional authorities, as well as the FPAM Youth Life Centre in Mzuzu.  “On a serious note, unsafe abortions are happening in this area at a very high rate,” says Alinafe at the FPAM clinic in Chigude. “Talking about abortions is a very important thing. Whether we like it or not, on-the-ground these things are really happening, so we can’t ignore them.”

woman
story

| 14 January 2021

“I learnt about condoms and even female condoms"

Mary, a 30-year-old sex worker, happily drinks a beer at one of the bars she works at in downtown Lilongwe. Her grin is reflected in the entirely mirrored walls, lit with red and blue neon lights.    Above her, a DJ sat in an elevated booth is playing pumping dancehall while a handful of people around the bar nod and dance along to the music. It’s not even midday yet.    Mary got introduced to the Family Planning Association of Malawi through friends, who invited her to a training session for sex worker ‘peer educators’ on issues related to sexual and reproductive health and rights as part of the Linkages project.    “I learnt about condoms and even female condoms, which I hadn’t heard of before,” remembers Mary.  Life-changing care and support   But the most life-changing care she received was an HIV test, where she learnt that she was positive and began anti-retroviral treatment (ART). “It was hard for me at first, but then I realized I had to start a new life,” says Mary, saying this included being open with her son about her status, who was 15 at the time.    According to UNAIDS 2018 data, 9.2% of adult Malawians are living with HIV. Women and sex workers are disproportionately affected - the same year, 55% of sex workers were estimated to be living with HIV.    Mary says she now feels much healthier and is open with her friends in the sex worker community about her status, also encouraging them to get tested for HIV.  “Linkages brought us all closer together as we became open about these issues with each other,” remembers Mary.  Looking out for other sex workers   As a peer educator, Mary became a go-to person for other sex workers to turn to in cases of sexual assault. “I’ll receive a message from someone who has been assaulted, then call everyone together to discuss the issue, and we’d escort that person to report to police,” says Mary.    During the Linkages project - which was impacted by the Global Gag Rule and abruptly discontinued in 2017 - Mary was given an allowance to travel to different ‘hotspot’ areas. In these bars and lodges, she explains in detail how she would go from room-to-room handing out male and female condoms and showing her peers how to use them.    FPAM healthcare teams would also go directly to the hotspots reaching women with healthcare such as STI testing and abortion counselling. FPAM’s teams know how crucial it is to provide healthcare to their clients ensuring it is non-judgmental and confidential. This is a vital service: Mary says she has had four sex worker friends die as a result of unsafe abortions, and lack of knowledge about post-abortion care.    “Since the project ended, most of us find it difficult to access these services,” says Mary, adding that “New sex workers don’t have the information I have, and without Linkages we’re not able to reach all the hotspot bars in Lilongwe to educate them.”

woman
story

| 25 May 2022

“I learnt about condoms and even female condoms"

Mary, a 30-year-old sex worker, happily drinks a beer at one of the bars she works at in downtown Lilongwe. Her grin is reflected in the entirely mirrored walls, lit with red and blue neon lights.    Above her, a DJ sat in an elevated booth is playing pumping dancehall while a handful of people around the bar nod and dance along to the music. It’s not even midday yet.    Mary got introduced to the Family Planning Association of Malawi through friends, who invited her to a training session for sex worker ‘peer educators’ on issues related to sexual and reproductive health and rights as part of the Linkages project.    “I learnt about condoms and even female condoms, which I hadn’t heard of before,” remembers Mary.  Life-changing care and support   But the most life-changing care she received was an HIV test, where she learnt that she was positive and began anti-retroviral treatment (ART). “It was hard for me at first, but then I realized I had to start a new life,” says Mary, saying this included being open with her son about her status, who was 15 at the time.    According to UNAIDS 2018 data, 9.2% of adult Malawians are living with HIV. Women and sex workers are disproportionately affected - the same year, 55% of sex workers were estimated to be living with HIV.    Mary says she now feels much healthier and is open with her friends in the sex worker community about her status, also encouraging them to get tested for HIV.  “Linkages brought us all closer together as we became open about these issues with each other,” remembers Mary.  Looking out for other sex workers   As a peer educator, Mary became a go-to person for other sex workers to turn to in cases of sexual assault. “I’ll receive a message from someone who has been assaulted, then call everyone together to discuss the issue, and we’d escort that person to report to police,” says Mary.    During the Linkages project - which was impacted by the Global Gag Rule and abruptly discontinued in 2017 - Mary was given an allowance to travel to different ‘hotspot’ areas. In these bars and lodges, she explains in detail how she would go from room-to-room handing out male and female condoms and showing her peers how to use them.    FPAM healthcare teams would also go directly to the hotspots reaching women with healthcare such as STI testing and abortion counselling. FPAM’s teams know how crucial it is to provide healthcare to their clients ensuring it is non-judgmental and confidential. This is a vital service: Mary says she has had four sex worker friends die as a result of unsafe abortions, and lack of knowledge about post-abortion care.    “Since the project ended, most of us find it difficult to access these services,” says Mary, adding that “New sex workers don’t have the information I have, and without Linkages we’re not able to reach all the hotspot bars in Lilongwe to educate them.”

Woman - not the person of the story Credits: IPPF/Trenchard/2017
story

| 22 January 2018

“I am a HIV positive sex worker and a peer educator.”

Amina is a peer educator trained by Family Planning Association of Malawi’s (FPAM) Linkages project. “I am a HIV positive sex worker and a peer educator,” she says. “I have 51 other sex workers in my care, I inform them on testing and treatment, also about STI treatment and condom use. I teach about the disadvantages of sharing ART (anti-retroviral therapy) and encourage them to go for tuberculosis testing if they are coughing.” Another educator called Cecilia adds: “I reached out to 60 female sex workers. We are all friends and they trust me. I refer them to services and we address abuse by the police. They rape us and steal our money but through the project, we can follow up since the project has access to the managers of the police.” Basic sexual health information Her colleague Florence says: “It also helped that the rogue and vagabond law was repealed.” The law was a permanent curfew, giving the police the power to round up, fine or jail anybody who was on the streets after eight o’clock at night. Lucy, also a peer educator, says part of the work is giving basic information. “I teach my friends on HIV and GBV (gender-based violence),” she explains. “And I teach how to use condoms and lubricants and how to persuade clients to use condoms. I also talk about family planning. Many female sex workers do not know they need it.” “The project helped me with condoms and I shared that with others,” says another client of the programme, Angela. “Through the project, I got tested for HIV and treated for STIs. I also encourage pregnant sex workers to go for pre-natal care so that they do not infect their babies. It is the first time that an organisation like FPAM worked with us. We got respected within the community because we are knowledgeable.” In the year the Linkages project ran, 627 female sex workers were supported in getting tested for HIV, the initiation of anti-retroviral treatment and therapy adherence. 2,700 women were referred to services and many more received information. The HIV prevalence rate among female sex workers went down from 77% to 62%. Global Gag Rule effects FPAM’s Linkages project was phased out in 2016 due to the Global Gag Rule. The effects are keenly felt amongst those who benefitted from the project: Amina says: “Many stopped taking medication. Healthcare facilities are not for us. I sing in a church choir, which is important to me. If they find out what I do, they will throw me out.” “My family thinks I work at a filling station at night,” says Lucy. Cecilia adds: “This project has to come back, please bring it back. If not, we will all die early.”

Woman - not the person of the story Credits: IPPF/Trenchard/2017
story

| 25 May 2022

“I am a HIV positive sex worker and a peer educator.”

Amina is a peer educator trained by Family Planning Association of Malawi’s (FPAM) Linkages project. “I am a HIV positive sex worker and a peer educator,” she says. “I have 51 other sex workers in my care, I inform them on testing and treatment, also about STI treatment and condom use. I teach about the disadvantages of sharing ART (anti-retroviral therapy) and encourage them to go for tuberculosis testing if they are coughing.” Another educator called Cecilia adds: “I reached out to 60 female sex workers. We are all friends and they trust me. I refer them to services and we address abuse by the police. They rape us and steal our money but through the project, we can follow up since the project has access to the managers of the police.” Basic sexual health information Her colleague Florence says: “It also helped that the rogue and vagabond law was repealed.” The law was a permanent curfew, giving the police the power to round up, fine or jail anybody who was on the streets after eight o’clock at night. Lucy, also a peer educator, says part of the work is giving basic information. “I teach my friends on HIV and GBV (gender-based violence),” she explains. “And I teach how to use condoms and lubricants and how to persuade clients to use condoms. I also talk about family planning. Many female sex workers do not know they need it.” “The project helped me with condoms and I shared that with others,” says another client of the programme, Angela. “Through the project, I got tested for HIV and treated for STIs. I also encourage pregnant sex workers to go for pre-natal care so that they do not infect their babies. It is the first time that an organisation like FPAM worked with us. We got respected within the community because we are knowledgeable.” In the year the Linkages project ran, 627 female sex workers were supported in getting tested for HIV, the initiation of anti-retroviral treatment and therapy adherence. 2,700 women were referred to services and many more received information. The HIV prevalence rate among female sex workers went down from 77% to 62%. Global Gag Rule effects FPAM’s Linkages project was phased out in 2016 due to the Global Gag Rule. The effects are keenly felt amongst those who benefitted from the project: Amina says: “Many stopped taking medication. Healthcare facilities are not for us. I sing in a church choir, which is important to me. If they find out what I do, they will throw me out.” “My family thinks I work at a filling station at night,” says Lucy. Cecilia adds: “This project has to come back, please bring it back. If not, we will all die early.”

credits: IPPF/Trenchard/Uganda
story

| 22 January 2018

"They are self-confident and outspoken, determined to improve the situation of female sex workers.”

It is 9.00pm in Lilongwe, the capital of Malawi , the fish market is one of the “hotspots” where the Family Planning Association of Malawi’s (FPAM) opens its trailer doors to  sex workers, a “key population” in the fight against HIV. Thoko Mbendera is the Executive Director of FPAM: “Key populations are groups whose needs you have to address if you ever want to bring down HIV prevalence in the general population. Sex workers clearly need help here: the HIV prevalence rate among them is 77% while among the general population it is 10.2%.” The clinic offers STI screening, family planning, HIV testing, tuberculosis (TBC) testing and cervical cancer screening. Outside, peer educators distribute condoms and talk to waiting clients. Thoko Mbendera says: “This group does not (have) access the public health sector, it is simple not an option for women who do not disclose what they do to anyone, so in the Linkages program we reach out to the hot spots at night.” Florence Mushani, is the coordinator of Linkages: “In the project we trained 63 peer educators. They are HIV positive; they approach their colleagues with information and advice. Our goal is the 90-90-90 target meaning 90% of sex workers know their status, 90% of HIV positive women are on anti-retroviral treatment (ART), and 90% of the women on ARTs will be virally suppressed. We also trained 21 peer navigators; they support others to adhere to therapy. We pay them a small stipend of 25 dollars a month, we expect a lot of them.” Tusekele Mwakasungula is FPAM’s Programs Manager: “The goal of the peer educators training is to build up the person,” he says. And it shows: these women are no shy victims of an unjust society, they are self-confident and outspoken, determined to improve the situation of female sex workers.” FPAM’s Linkages project was phased out in 2016 due to the Global Gag Rule.

credits: IPPF/Trenchard/Uganda
story

| 25 May 2022

"They are self-confident and outspoken, determined to improve the situation of female sex workers.”

It is 9.00pm in Lilongwe, the capital of Malawi , the fish market is one of the “hotspots” where the Family Planning Association of Malawi’s (FPAM) opens its trailer doors to  sex workers, a “key population” in the fight against HIV. Thoko Mbendera is the Executive Director of FPAM: “Key populations are groups whose needs you have to address if you ever want to bring down HIV prevalence in the general population. Sex workers clearly need help here: the HIV prevalence rate among them is 77% while among the general population it is 10.2%.” The clinic offers STI screening, family planning, HIV testing, tuberculosis (TBC) testing and cervical cancer screening. Outside, peer educators distribute condoms and talk to waiting clients. Thoko Mbendera says: “This group does not (have) access the public health sector, it is simple not an option for women who do not disclose what they do to anyone, so in the Linkages program we reach out to the hot spots at night.” Florence Mushani, is the coordinator of Linkages: “In the project we trained 63 peer educators. They are HIV positive; they approach their colleagues with information and advice. Our goal is the 90-90-90 target meaning 90% of sex workers know their status, 90% of HIV positive women are on anti-retroviral treatment (ART), and 90% of the women on ARTs will be virally suppressed. We also trained 21 peer navigators; they support others to adhere to therapy. We pay them a small stipend of 25 dollars a month, we expect a lot of them.” Tusekele Mwakasungula is FPAM’s Programs Manager: “The goal of the peer educators training is to build up the person,” he says. And it shows: these women are no shy victims of an unjust society, they are self-confident and outspoken, determined to improve the situation of female sex workers.” FPAM’s Linkages project was phased out in 2016 due to the Global Gag Rule.

Healthcare worker
story

| 14 January 2021

“Most NGOs don’t come here because it’s so hard to reach”

Dressed in a sparkling white medical coat, Alinafe runs one of Family Planning Association of Malawi (FPAM) mobile clinics in the village of Chigude. Under the hot midday sun, she patiently answering the questions of staff, volunteers and clients - all while heavily pregnant herself.  Delivering care to remote communities  “Most NGOs don’t come here because it’s so hard to reach,” she says, as women queue up in neat lines in front of two khaki tents to receive anything from a cervical cancer screening to abortion counselling. Without the mobile clinic, local women risk life-threatening health issues as a result of unsafe abortion or illnesses linked to undiagnosed HIV status. According to the Guttmacher Institute, complications from abortion are the cause of 6–18% of maternal deaths in Malawi.    District Manager Alinafe joined the Family Planning Association of Malawi in 2016, when she was just 20 years old, after going to nursing school and getting her degree in public health. She was one of the team involved in the Linkages project, which provided free family planning care to sex workers in Mzuzu until it was discontinued following the 2017 Global Gag Rule.  Seeing the impact of lost funding on care  “This change has reduced our reach,” Alinafe says, explaining that before the Gag Rule they were reaching sex workers in all four traditional authorities in Mzimba North - now they mostly work in just one. She says this means they are “denying people services which are very important” and without reaching people with sexual and reproductive healthcare, increasing the risk of STIs.    The reduction in healthcare has also led to a breakdown in the trust FPAM had worked to build in communities, gaining support from those in respected positions such as chiefs.    “Important people in the communities have been complaining to us, saying why did you do this? You were here, these things were happening and our people were benefiting a lot but now nothing is good at all,” explains Alinafe.    Still, she is determined to serve her community against the odds - running the outreach clinic funded by Global Affairs Canada five times a week, in four traditional authorities, as well as the FPAM Youth Life Centre in Mzuzu.  “On a serious note, unsafe abortions are happening in this area at a very high rate,” says Alinafe at the FPAM clinic in Chigude. “Talking about abortions is a very important thing. Whether we like it or not, on-the-ground these things are really happening, so we can’t ignore them.”

Healthcare worker
story

| 25 May 2022

“Most NGOs don’t come here because it’s so hard to reach”

Dressed in a sparkling white medical coat, Alinafe runs one of Family Planning Association of Malawi (FPAM) mobile clinics in the village of Chigude. Under the hot midday sun, she patiently answering the questions of staff, volunteers and clients - all while heavily pregnant herself.  Delivering care to remote communities  “Most NGOs don’t come here because it’s so hard to reach,” she says, as women queue up in neat lines in front of two khaki tents to receive anything from a cervical cancer screening to abortion counselling. Without the mobile clinic, local women risk life-threatening health issues as a result of unsafe abortion or illnesses linked to undiagnosed HIV status. According to the Guttmacher Institute, complications from abortion are the cause of 6–18% of maternal deaths in Malawi.    District Manager Alinafe joined the Family Planning Association of Malawi in 2016, when she was just 20 years old, after going to nursing school and getting her degree in public health. She was one of the team involved in the Linkages project, which provided free family planning care to sex workers in Mzuzu until it was discontinued following the 2017 Global Gag Rule.  Seeing the impact of lost funding on care  “This change has reduced our reach,” Alinafe says, explaining that before the Gag Rule they were reaching sex workers in all four traditional authorities in Mzimba North - now they mostly work in just one. She says this means they are “denying people services which are very important” and without reaching people with sexual and reproductive healthcare, increasing the risk of STIs.    The reduction in healthcare has also led to a breakdown in the trust FPAM had worked to build in communities, gaining support from those in respected positions such as chiefs.    “Important people in the communities have been complaining to us, saying why did you do this? You were here, these things were happening and our people were benefiting a lot but now nothing is good at all,” explains Alinafe.    Still, she is determined to serve her community against the odds - running the outreach clinic funded by Global Affairs Canada five times a week, in four traditional authorities, as well as the FPAM Youth Life Centre in Mzuzu.  “On a serious note, unsafe abortions are happening in this area at a very high rate,” says Alinafe at the FPAM clinic in Chigude. “Talking about abortions is a very important thing. Whether we like it or not, on-the-ground these things are really happening, so we can’t ignore them.”

woman
story

| 14 January 2021

“I learnt about condoms and even female condoms"

Mary, a 30-year-old sex worker, happily drinks a beer at one of the bars she works at in downtown Lilongwe. Her grin is reflected in the entirely mirrored walls, lit with red and blue neon lights.    Above her, a DJ sat in an elevated booth is playing pumping dancehall while a handful of people around the bar nod and dance along to the music. It’s not even midday yet.    Mary got introduced to the Family Planning Association of Malawi through friends, who invited her to a training session for sex worker ‘peer educators’ on issues related to sexual and reproductive health and rights as part of the Linkages project.    “I learnt about condoms and even female condoms, which I hadn’t heard of before,” remembers Mary.  Life-changing care and support   But the most life-changing care she received was an HIV test, where she learnt that she was positive and began anti-retroviral treatment (ART). “It was hard for me at first, but then I realized I had to start a new life,” says Mary, saying this included being open with her son about her status, who was 15 at the time.    According to UNAIDS 2018 data, 9.2% of adult Malawians are living with HIV. Women and sex workers are disproportionately affected - the same year, 55% of sex workers were estimated to be living with HIV.    Mary says she now feels much healthier and is open with her friends in the sex worker community about her status, also encouraging them to get tested for HIV.  “Linkages brought us all closer together as we became open about these issues with each other,” remembers Mary.  Looking out for other sex workers   As a peer educator, Mary became a go-to person for other sex workers to turn to in cases of sexual assault. “I’ll receive a message from someone who has been assaulted, then call everyone together to discuss the issue, and we’d escort that person to report to police,” says Mary.    During the Linkages project - which was impacted by the Global Gag Rule and abruptly discontinued in 2017 - Mary was given an allowance to travel to different ‘hotspot’ areas. In these bars and lodges, she explains in detail how she would go from room-to-room handing out male and female condoms and showing her peers how to use them.    FPAM healthcare teams would also go directly to the hotspots reaching women with healthcare such as STI testing and abortion counselling. FPAM’s teams know how crucial it is to provide healthcare to their clients ensuring it is non-judgmental and confidential. This is a vital service: Mary says she has had four sex worker friends die as a result of unsafe abortions, and lack of knowledge about post-abortion care.    “Since the project ended, most of us find it difficult to access these services,” says Mary, adding that “New sex workers don’t have the information I have, and without Linkages we’re not able to reach all the hotspot bars in Lilongwe to educate them.”

woman
story

| 25 May 2022

“I learnt about condoms and even female condoms"

Mary, a 30-year-old sex worker, happily drinks a beer at one of the bars she works at in downtown Lilongwe. Her grin is reflected in the entirely mirrored walls, lit with red and blue neon lights.    Above her, a DJ sat in an elevated booth is playing pumping dancehall while a handful of people around the bar nod and dance along to the music. It’s not even midday yet.    Mary got introduced to the Family Planning Association of Malawi through friends, who invited her to a training session for sex worker ‘peer educators’ on issues related to sexual and reproductive health and rights as part of the Linkages project.    “I learnt about condoms and even female condoms, which I hadn’t heard of before,” remembers Mary.  Life-changing care and support   But the most life-changing care she received was an HIV test, where she learnt that she was positive and began anti-retroviral treatment (ART). “It was hard for me at first, but then I realized I had to start a new life,” says Mary, saying this included being open with her son about her status, who was 15 at the time.    According to UNAIDS 2018 data, 9.2% of adult Malawians are living with HIV. Women and sex workers are disproportionately affected - the same year, 55% of sex workers were estimated to be living with HIV.    Mary says she now feels much healthier and is open with her friends in the sex worker community about her status, also encouraging them to get tested for HIV.  “Linkages brought us all closer together as we became open about these issues with each other,” remembers Mary.  Looking out for other sex workers   As a peer educator, Mary became a go-to person for other sex workers to turn to in cases of sexual assault. “I’ll receive a message from someone who has been assaulted, then call everyone together to discuss the issue, and we’d escort that person to report to police,” says Mary.    During the Linkages project - which was impacted by the Global Gag Rule and abruptly discontinued in 2017 - Mary was given an allowance to travel to different ‘hotspot’ areas. In these bars and lodges, she explains in detail how she would go from room-to-room handing out male and female condoms and showing her peers how to use them.    FPAM healthcare teams would also go directly to the hotspots reaching women with healthcare such as STI testing and abortion counselling. FPAM’s teams know how crucial it is to provide healthcare to their clients ensuring it is non-judgmental and confidential. This is a vital service: Mary says she has had four sex worker friends die as a result of unsafe abortions, and lack of knowledge about post-abortion care.    “Since the project ended, most of us find it difficult to access these services,” says Mary, adding that “New sex workers don’t have the information I have, and without Linkages we’re not able to reach all the hotspot bars in Lilongwe to educate them.”

Woman - not the person of the story Credits: IPPF/Trenchard/2017
story

| 22 January 2018

“I am a HIV positive sex worker and a peer educator.”

Amina is a peer educator trained by Family Planning Association of Malawi’s (FPAM) Linkages project. “I am a HIV positive sex worker and a peer educator,” she says. “I have 51 other sex workers in my care, I inform them on testing and treatment, also about STI treatment and condom use. I teach about the disadvantages of sharing ART (anti-retroviral therapy) and encourage them to go for tuberculosis testing if they are coughing.” Another educator called Cecilia adds: “I reached out to 60 female sex workers. We are all friends and they trust me. I refer them to services and we address abuse by the police. They rape us and steal our money but through the project, we can follow up since the project has access to the managers of the police.” Basic sexual health information Her colleague Florence says: “It also helped that the rogue and vagabond law was repealed.” The law was a permanent curfew, giving the police the power to round up, fine or jail anybody who was on the streets after eight o’clock at night. Lucy, also a peer educator, says part of the work is giving basic information. “I teach my friends on HIV and GBV (gender-based violence),” she explains. “And I teach how to use condoms and lubricants and how to persuade clients to use condoms. I also talk about family planning. Many female sex workers do not know they need it.” “The project helped me with condoms and I shared that with others,” says another client of the programme, Angela. “Through the project, I got tested for HIV and treated for STIs. I also encourage pregnant sex workers to go for pre-natal care so that they do not infect their babies. It is the first time that an organisation like FPAM worked with us. We got respected within the community because we are knowledgeable.” In the year the Linkages project ran, 627 female sex workers were supported in getting tested for HIV, the initiation of anti-retroviral treatment and therapy adherence. 2,700 women were referred to services and many more received information. The HIV prevalence rate among female sex workers went down from 77% to 62%. Global Gag Rule effects FPAM’s Linkages project was phased out in 2016 due to the Global Gag Rule. The effects are keenly felt amongst those who benefitted from the project: Amina says: “Many stopped taking medication. Healthcare facilities are not for us. I sing in a church choir, which is important to me. If they find out what I do, they will throw me out.” “My family thinks I work at a filling station at night,” says Lucy. Cecilia adds: “This project has to come back, please bring it back. If not, we will all die early.”

Woman - not the person of the story Credits: IPPF/Trenchard/2017
story

| 25 May 2022

“I am a HIV positive sex worker and a peer educator.”

Amina is a peer educator trained by Family Planning Association of Malawi’s (FPAM) Linkages project. “I am a HIV positive sex worker and a peer educator,” she says. “I have 51 other sex workers in my care, I inform them on testing and treatment, also about STI treatment and condom use. I teach about the disadvantages of sharing ART (anti-retroviral therapy) and encourage them to go for tuberculosis testing if they are coughing.” Another educator called Cecilia adds: “I reached out to 60 female sex workers. We are all friends and they trust me. I refer them to services and we address abuse by the police. They rape us and steal our money but through the project, we can follow up since the project has access to the managers of the police.” Basic sexual health information Her colleague Florence says: “It also helped that the rogue and vagabond law was repealed.” The law was a permanent curfew, giving the police the power to round up, fine or jail anybody who was on the streets after eight o’clock at night. Lucy, also a peer educator, says part of the work is giving basic information. “I teach my friends on HIV and GBV (gender-based violence),” she explains. “And I teach how to use condoms and lubricants and how to persuade clients to use condoms. I also talk about family planning. Many female sex workers do not know they need it.” “The project helped me with condoms and I shared that with others,” says another client of the programme, Angela. “Through the project, I got tested for HIV and treated for STIs. I also encourage pregnant sex workers to go for pre-natal care so that they do not infect their babies. It is the first time that an organisation like FPAM worked with us. We got respected within the community because we are knowledgeable.” In the year the Linkages project ran, 627 female sex workers were supported in getting tested for HIV, the initiation of anti-retroviral treatment and therapy adherence. 2,700 women were referred to services and many more received information. The HIV prevalence rate among female sex workers went down from 77% to 62%. Global Gag Rule effects FPAM’s Linkages project was phased out in 2016 due to the Global Gag Rule. The effects are keenly felt amongst those who benefitted from the project: Amina says: “Many stopped taking medication. Healthcare facilities are not for us. I sing in a church choir, which is important to me. If they find out what I do, they will throw me out.” “My family thinks I work at a filling station at night,” says Lucy. Cecilia adds: “This project has to come back, please bring it back. If not, we will all die early.”

credits: IPPF/Trenchard/Uganda
story

| 22 January 2018

"They are self-confident and outspoken, determined to improve the situation of female sex workers.”

It is 9.00pm in Lilongwe, the capital of Malawi , the fish market is one of the “hotspots” where the Family Planning Association of Malawi’s (FPAM) opens its trailer doors to  sex workers, a “key population” in the fight against HIV. Thoko Mbendera is the Executive Director of FPAM: “Key populations are groups whose needs you have to address if you ever want to bring down HIV prevalence in the general population. Sex workers clearly need help here: the HIV prevalence rate among them is 77% while among the general population it is 10.2%.” The clinic offers STI screening, family planning, HIV testing, tuberculosis (TBC) testing and cervical cancer screening. Outside, peer educators distribute condoms and talk to waiting clients. Thoko Mbendera says: “This group does not (have) access the public health sector, it is simple not an option for women who do not disclose what they do to anyone, so in the Linkages program we reach out to the hot spots at night.” Florence Mushani, is the coordinator of Linkages: “In the project we trained 63 peer educators. They are HIV positive; they approach their colleagues with information and advice. Our goal is the 90-90-90 target meaning 90% of sex workers know their status, 90% of HIV positive women are on anti-retroviral treatment (ART), and 90% of the women on ARTs will be virally suppressed. We also trained 21 peer navigators; they support others to adhere to therapy. We pay them a small stipend of 25 dollars a month, we expect a lot of them.” Tusekele Mwakasungula is FPAM’s Programs Manager: “The goal of the peer educators training is to build up the person,” he says. And it shows: these women are no shy victims of an unjust society, they are self-confident and outspoken, determined to improve the situation of female sex workers.” FPAM’s Linkages project was phased out in 2016 due to the Global Gag Rule.

credits: IPPF/Trenchard/Uganda
story

| 25 May 2022

"They are self-confident and outspoken, determined to improve the situation of female sex workers.”

It is 9.00pm in Lilongwe, the capital of Malawi , the fish market is one of the “hotspots” where the Family Planning Association of Malawi’s (FPAM) opens its trailer doors to  sex workers, a “key population” in the fight against HIV. Thoko Mbendera is the Executive Director of FPAM: “Key populations are groups whose needs you have to address if you ever want to bring down HIV prevalence in the general population. Sex workers clearly need help here: the HIV prevalence rate among them is 77% while among the general population it is 10.2%.” The clinic offers STI screening, family planning, HIV testing, tuberculosis (TBC) testing and cervical cancer screening. Outside, peer educators distribute condoms and talk to waiting clients. Thoko Mbendera says: “This group does not (have) access the public health sector, it is simple not an option for women who do not disclose what they do to anyone, so in the Linkages program we reach out to the hot spots at night.” Florence Mushani, is the coordinator of Linkages: “In the project we trained 63 peer educators. They are HIV positive; they approach their colleagues with information and advice. Our goal is the 90-90-90 target meaning 90% of sex workers know their status, 90% of HIV positive women are on anti-retroviral treatment (ART), and 90% of the women on ARTs will be virally suppressed. We also trained 21 peer navigators; they support others to adhere to therapy. We pay them a small stipend of 25 dollars a month, we expect a lot of them.” Tusekele Mwakasungula is FPAM’s Programs Manager: “The goal of the peer educators training is to build up the person,” he says. And it shows: these women are no shy victims of an unjust society, they are self-confident and outspoken, determined to improve the situation of female sex workers.” FPAM’s Linkages project was phased out in 2016 due to the Global Gag Rule.