By: Liapeng Raliengoane
A 32-year-old Maputsoe female Sex Worker who preferred to remain anonymous indicated that the Integrated Sexual and Reproductive health and Rights Services which they obtain at Maputsoe Wellness Centre have unburdened them a lot as they now go to the health facilities once in a while to get a variety of services without discrimination.
In her words she said, “I remember one incident 17 years ago when I started sex work. I was 15 years then and I had contacted an STI. I went to the nearest government hospital and a nurse who helped me called attention on me. She disgustedly said unpleasant remarks like: I was a silly, bad-mannered child who engages in unprotected sexual activities at that young age, she said that I was reaping what I had sown. As if it was not enough, the nurse further called out other health workers to come and see my private part which had nearly got rotten and smelt badly as described by the nurse then – I was so humiliated.”
An anonymous sex worker indicated that she was referred to a counselor in a different room for HIV testing and counselling and she was told to come back to the same nurse afterwards. That was when she decided to leave the facility. She didn’t go to the counselling room; she went back to her rented house instead. The STI got worse as days passed, she could not move anymore and was bedridden. It was then that her rental neighbor called her grandmother back home to come get her grand-daughter and she came hastily and took her to a different health facility. She states that from that experience, she made a promise to herself that she would rather die than set her foot in a government health facility again.
The challenges in her line of work include: discrimination from the community members who know how she earns a living, Covid-19 that also reduced the number of her clients and life has gotten very hard as she has a family (two kids and a grandmother) to feed.
“With the availability of integrated health services we are getting from Maputsoe Wellness Center, my colleagues and I are able to access various services under one consultation, hence convenient, while also saving time and money for transport to and from the health facility. We have a broad knowledge about family planning methods and we also have condoms distributed to us. Moreover, the nurses are young and sweet this side, no discrimination,” an anonymous sex worker revealed.
Maputsoe Wellness Centre’s Nurse Moipone Tlali highlighted that the clinic provides Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) integrated services to the community and along the border post – adolescents and vulnerable groups though the primary target groups which are key populations (Sex workers).
Tlali also emphasized that the key population groups are given first priority at the clinic – they skip the queue. She also stated that Sexually Transmitted Infections are very common and major along the border: Long distance Truck drivers, LGBTQI+, Inmates, and Men having sex with other men.
Maputsoe bridge-based UNFPA and Lesotho Planned Parenthood Association’s along with the border’s Comprehensive HIV Prevention Program Peer Educator Lekhooa Motšeare said that they provide information and referrals on SRHR and HIV/AIDS prevention services along the Maputsoe border post. He states that as peer educators, they also distribute condoms in hot spot areas which include garages, bars, local hotels and long distance truck parking areas.
Motšeare further said while doing their job, they come across challenges which include sex workers who are humuliated by their clients or the community at times. “Sometimes the sex workers lack sanitary supplies as they indicate that their charges have become non-provident for their day to day needs,” he points out.
In 2018, the United Nations joint regional programme called 2gether4SRHR was launched, which was supported by Swedish International Development Agency (SEDA) and implemented by the United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and World Health Organization (WHO). The goal of the project is to improve the sexual and reproductive health of all people in East and Southern Africa, Lesotho included.
2gether4SRHR aims to fast-track the attainment of the 2030 targets of Sustainable Development Goal SDG 3, improve the health and well-being for all at all ages, and SDG 5, achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls.