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CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC: HIV/AIDS and reproductive health workshop held for sex workers

Photo: IRIN
Central African Republic (CAR)
BANGUI, 30 September 2002 (PlusNews) - A four-day workshop organised by the Association des Femmes Africaines Face au Sida (AFAFSI) aimed at educating sex workers about HIV/AIDS and reproductive health concluded on Friday in Bangui, capital of the Central African Republic (CAR).

"The aim of the workshop was to invite them to adopt a more responsible sexual behaviour, to make them aware of their vulnerability, to tell them how they can protect themselves and to push them to have blood tests," Dr Marie Christine Awa Sepou-Yanza, a paediatrician and the vice-president of AFAFSI, told PlusNews on Saturday.

The 24-27 September workshop, which was led by medical doctors specialised in HIV/AIDS, and social welfare workers from the Association Centrafricaine pour le Bien-Etre Familial (ACABEF), hosted 80 commercial sex workers aged between 15 and 25.

"One HIV-positive prostitute delivered her testimony to other participants, which showed them that HIV/AIDS is a reality," Julie Imafidon, head of the information and education section of ACABEF, told IRIN. She added that participants were also shown how to use the female condom.

Sepou-Yanza said AFAFSI, which has about 100 members in the CAR, was endeavouring to convince sex workers to abandon their current line of work and engage in safer revenue-generating activities.

"We propose safer revenue-generating activities so that they can decide to give up their risky career," said Sepou-Yanza, who added that AFAFSI trained women in professional activities such as sewing and trading. "We intend to organise another meeting very soon in which we will propose concrete opportunities for them," she said.

AFAFSI is being financially supported by the UN Development Programme (UNDP). "For our campaign in September, UNDP gave us about 2 million francs (US $2,992)," said Sepou-Yanza.

Headquartered in Dakar, Senegal, AFAFSI opened a branch in CAR in December 1991.

CAR remains the most HIV/AIDS-affected nation in the subregion, and the 10th most affected in the world, with 12 percent of its population HIV-positive.

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