At least 60% of sex workers in South Africa are HIV positive, according to the national HIV programme survey which focussed on sex workers.
The survey is part of an HIV programme aimed at reducing transmission of HIV to sex workers and their clients. At a meeting held in Johannesburg on Monday, sex workers have again appealed to government to decriminalise sex work in the country.
It's estimated that there are 153 000 sex workers in South Africa, 60% of them are HIV positive. Sex workers, their sex partners and clients account for between 6% and 11% of all new HIV infections in the country.
These are some of the findings of the HIV sex worker programme commissioned by the South African National AIDS Council and the Sex Workers Education and Advocacy Taskforce (SWEAT) in 2013.
Doctor Fareed Abdullah the CEO of SA National Aids Council says these numbers are not surprising considering that sex workers have been neglected for two decades in a country with such a high HIV prevalence.
Abdullah explains more:
Kholi Buthelezi from the national sex worker movement, Sisonke, says contrary to popular belief there are clients, and not sex workers, who refuse to use condoms. She says one of the many challenges they face is intimidation from the police who confiscate their condoms while they try to protect themselves from HIV infection.
Buthelezi says this issue would be addressed if their job is decriminalised like other professions.
John Jeffreys, the Deputy Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development says the decriminalisation of sex work by the Law Commission is at an advanced stage, however, more is required from sex workers themselves.
"If decriminalisation or some form of decriminalisation is to go through, it's important that it has majority support from the people of South Africa. So it's important also in engaging with the issue, that you look at not just making your voice heard and making your input but engaging with the people of South Africa - to explain why sex work should be decriminalised or at least some components of sex work should be decriminalised,"says Jeffreys.