Sex workers vaccinated on pride day

Sex workers and non-profits celebrate International Sex Workers’ Pride Day in Salt River.

Sex workers got their Covid-19 vaccinations at an event in Salt River last week.

The sex workers got their single-dose Johnson & Johnson jabs from the provincial health department at the Shelley Road Sports Field on Tuesday September 14, as they celebrated International Sex Workers’ Pride Day with members of the public.

More than 100 people attended the event, which was organised by sex-worker advocacy groups, Sisonke, Asijiki and Sex Worker Education and Advocacy Taskforce (SWEAT).

Sisonke spokeswoman Yonela Sinqu said the event was a way for sex workers to celebrate their profession and help the public understand some of the problems they face in their work.

Sex workers had been asking how they could get vaccinated if they had no IDs, she said.

“We have urged the Department of Health to please help us to vaccinate the sex workers,” she said.

Sweat spokeswoman Megan Lessing said they were grateful that the department had agreed to take part in the event.

“Even though we celebrate, we can’t forget the challenges that sex workers face, especially when they want to go to government institutions for help, and sometimes they don’t have any trust in the institutions.”

Sweat had done a lot of training, giving members that facts on the vaccines and helping them weed out false information, she said.

Health MEC Dr Nomafrench Mbombo was at the vaccine drive. “The health department does not discriminate against sex workers, and if anyone in health does discriminate, it means that they should not be in this industry,” she said.

Health MEC Dr Nomafrench Mbombo speaking at the vaccination drive.

Nobody should judge sex workers for what they did. “People must walk in their shoes first before judging,” she said, backing calls for sex work to be decriminalised.

“We find when sex workers get arrested, their chronic medication gets confiscated by police, and they also fill up the jail cells for this petty crime when they are more serious crimes for police.”

Zaza, a 31-year-old sex worker from Khayelitsha, sees getting the vaccine as part of her civic duty.

“I want to make a difference and want the country to get better,” she said, adding that Sweat had supported her and informed her about the vaccine.

Nomsa, 31, from Parow, said she had come for her vaccination because she did not want to get Covid-19.

Sister Yvette Andrews, of the District Metro Health Services, supervised the vaccinations. Sex workers without IDs were able to get vaccinated, and foreigners could get a jab by providing their passport numbers.

Helping with the vaccinations from left, are Pink Drive provincial co-ordinator Tenielle Karen, Sister Yvette Andrews from District Metro Health Services and nurse Portia Hudsonberg.

“We were invited by Sweat and various non-profits to do the vaccinations as they saw how we vaccinated the street-based people,” she said, referring to the department’s vaccination outreach programmes for the homeless.