Covid-19 adversely impact sex workers

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All the communities the world over were affected because of the imposition of Covid-19 and the worse was with sex workers, transgender and people living with HIV. A new survey in the Island Nation of Sri Lanka has revealed that Covid -19 affected communities who are vulnerable to HIV including men who have sex with men (MSM), transgender women, female sex workers, people using drugs, tourism service providers and people living with HIV (PLHIV).

The survey named ‘COVID19 Impact on Key Populations PLHIV and SR Organisations’ said that lack of financial resources to survive the curfew period was a key concern among PLHIV community. The survey was done by CARE Consortium, a collection of three organisations including Delivery and Solitary Trust (DAST), Young Out Here and National Transgender Network,

Most respondents were not able to earn any income during the curfew period either because their employers did not pay salaries or they were not able to engage in their occupation due to curfew. Antiretroviral Treatments (ART) were delivered to PLHIV community members by organizations of PLHIV community in collaboration with Family Planning Association Sri Lanka (FPA) and the National STD AIDS Control Program (NSACP). However, access to other sexual health services including condoms and lubricants remained a challenge.

With economy falling significantly, the people find it challenging to get an employment and those who sell sex may opt to give up adhering to safer sex practices in order to gain any sort of income while many others may explore sex work as an income generation source during this time. “With no or very limited access to condoms, lubricants, HIV testing, as the HIV prevention interventions supported by the Global Fund have been largely disrupted, this may significantly contribute to increasing HIV incidence rate in the country,”  the report said.

COVID-19 pandemic also added an extra burden on key populations who are already struggling with housing or proper accommodation. While some live with unaccepting parents, some others live with abusive intimate partners or have to endure abuse or violence as payment for housing, the report said.

Millions of women and children the world over are facing heightened threat of violence and it is the same when talking of women and children in Sri Lanka. A new study has shown that Covid-19 pandemic has increased the rate of violence against women and children in the island nation.

The survey also revealed that 26 percent of the people who responded to the survey were victims of violence during the lockdown restrictions imposed during covid 19 pandemic. The Lankan government imposed the ban in March and relaxed in June.

The survey said that 76.8 percent of the people who participated in the survey said that they were verbally abused. While 7.8 per cent of them experienced physical assault, 5.6 per cent experienced sexual violence.

The survey found that the main perpetrators were neighbours (49 percent). This was followed by parents (25 percent), intimate partners (24 percent) and police (ten percent).

Of the respondents, 56 percent were men, 16 percent transgender, 16 percent sex workers, 32 percent people who used drugs and three percent beach boys. Most of the victims did not seek support after experiencing the violence because they did not know where to go. The report also mentioned that a large number of respondents have also experience mental health conditions that varied from stress to suicidal thoughts and yet were not aware where to access mental health support.

 

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