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The Power of Peer-Education in Preventing HIV/AIDS among Female Sex Workers

These seed grants were funded by Johnson & Johnson and WomanCare Global via the Women Deliver C Exchange Youth Initiative.

By: Chukwudera Bridget Okeke, Concern Women International Development Initiative (Nigeria)

My project in Nigeria’s Benue State aims to make real change in the lives of female sex workers (FSW) and their clients by enhancing their knowledge of HIV/AIDS and empowering them to negotiate safer sex with their clients. In Benue State, female workers account for just 1% of the population but make up 23% of new HIV infections. I strongly believe that knowledge of sexual and reproductive health and rights, including HIV/AIDS, among female sex workers will go a long way in creating positive behavior change and, in turn, will reduce the spread of HIV/AIDS.

My project involves training 40 female sex workers on HIV/AIDS and STI prevention strategies. By holding peer education sessions in popular gathering spots like bars and clubs, the project reaches female sex workers who are not based in hotels. The project also conducts sensitivity training for 10 health workers on how to provide FSW-friendly services and translates HIV/AIDS educational and communication materials into Tiv, the local language.

I am very passionate on issues affecting women and have a desire to make a positive difference in the life of disadvantaged people, particularly women and girls. I have become particularly interested in working with female sex workers after listening to their stories. Girls get involved in commercial sex work for so many reasons. Miss Helen told me her story, saying, “'I didn't enjoy having sex with boys during my monthly period but because I need to pay my rent, I need to take care of myself and my siblings. I just have to do it with my regular client. I hope to pack out from the brothels as soon as I get another means of substance. And I will ensure I use condom correctly and consistently with my clients.”

When I see positive changes in the lives of people who have benefited from our program, like Helen, I am inspired to continue my work of empowering the women and girls in my community to live a better life.

Check out some other youth-led projects in Nigeria focusing on maternal, child, and sexual and reproductive health, like Traffina Foundation and OROL Youth Empowerment Initiative.

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