CeSHHAR Covid-19 Response on National Sex Programme
CeSHHAR is working hard to ensure its national sex work programme. Sisters with a Voice can continue to safely provide key HIV services including HIV testing, STI diagnosis and treatment, provision of contraceptives, PrEP refills, mental health support and linkage to Anti-Retroviral Therapy.
CeSHHAR has provided all clinic staff with personal protective equipment (PPE), clinic visitors are triaged and being asked if they have symptoms of Covid-19 and routine visits are discouraged. Community PrEP refills are available at pick-up points near where people live rather than at the clinic and there is a phone line that sex workers can call to organise refills and self-testing.
CeSSHAR is developing a web-based app that will offer a directory of operational sex worker friendly services closest to the sex worker, an STI symptom checker, clinic appointment booking and Covid-19 information. Initially, it will support CeSHHAR to shift from existing models of face-to-face service delivery to more virtual service delivery in the context of Covid-19 and social distancing measures. However, it will continue to be a vital information source for sex workers accessing support services in the future.
CeSHHAR has put into place a number of emergency interventions to safeguard female sex workers, including the provision of PPE (gloves, facemasks, soap/sanitiser), self-testing kits, condoms and lubricants. Self-help Groups run by sex workers as part of the programme are making reusable cloth facemasks that they can sell for a small income. The CeSHHAR team is currently putting together advice on how FSWs can practice sex work safely during the pandemic.
Like much of the world, Zimbabwe is in lockdown to stem the spread of Covid-19 and social distancing measures are having a severe impact on sex workers whose income is drying up. They have no money to pay rent, buy food or pay children’s schools fees – CeSHHAR is seeking funds from a variety of donors to address these basic needs while social distancing continues to curtail sex workers’ ability to earn a living.
The CeSHHAR team monitors the situation daily and is learning rapidly how to adjust its own ways of working to ensure the objectives of the Sisters with a Voice programme can be fulfilled whilst keeping staff and clients safe. CeSHHAR is committed to continuing to provide support and services to sex workers so that their sexual and reproductive health is not worsened by the Covid-19 pandemic.