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Engaging Malawi Police Service to promote access to SRH and rights for female sex workers

UNFPA and Pakachere Institute organized a two day workshop on sex workers rights and access to sexual and reproductive health services by engaging senior police commissioners within the Malawi Police Service (MPS). The meeting was convened with an aim of facilitating the creation of an enabling environment for the reduction of vulnerability and addressing structural barriers to accessing sexual reproductive health and rights including HIV services among female sex workers.

Speaking during the opening session, UNFPA representative Dan Odallo stressed the importance of addressing the problem of buying and selling unsafe sex. “The UNAIDS Technical Guidance Note on Sex and HIV produced in 2009, recognises that while some sex work settings have served as excellent venues for  HIV-prevention programmes, many others neither promote safer sex nor protect sex  workers from violence perpetrated by clients, law enforcement officers, gangs, establishment  owners or controllers. Similarly, in many countries, official policies principally focus on reducing or punishing the suppliers while ignoring the consistent demand for paid sex”, said Odallo. He also added that the workshop comes at good time where there is momentum for everyone to enforce the commitment to end HIV/AIDS in the country.

Also speaking on behalf of the Inspector General of Police, Commissioner Chigwenembe explained on the need for effective solutions on the worrying HIV/AIDS trends in the MPS as well as their engagement with female sex workers as they enforce the law.

“It is imperative that as senior police officers, we need to initiate discussions that are geared to finding lasting solutions to reduce HIV infections, with a particular focus on sex workers rights” said Commissioner Chigwenembe.

He further added that he hopes that UNFPA and Pakachere Institute will continue to support the Malawi police in the fight against HIV epidemic.  The meeting was attended by Senior Police Commissioners, UNFPA official, Pakachere representatives as well as some members of the Sex Workers Alliance in Malawi.

UNFPAs support towards HIV Prevention among sex workers

Pakechere Institute with support from UNFPA works with the Malawi Police Service in five districts on building capacity of sex work led organizations to plan and implement SRH/HIV services.

Malawi has roughly about 20,000 sex workers, representing 0.5% of the adult female population, according to the FPAM 2011 report, “Counting the uncatchables! Report of the situation analysis of the magnitude, behavioural patterns, contributing factors, current interventions and impact of sex work in HIV prevention in Malawi”. Most sex workers in Malawi continuously face discrimination making them  more vulnerable to HIV/AIDS as they lack access to HIV/AIDS prevention services.