A new cohort of 91 peer educators started this year from seven areas within Bulawayo City Centre as well as the smaller town sex hotspots of Hwange, Plumtree and Gwanda. The girls and women, who have resorted to selling sex as a means to earn an income, receive training in sexual health, HIV prevention, report writing, legal rights, and positive parenting. They have also been able to access counselling and support through home visits, family planning services, HIV testing and cervical cancer screening. As a result of this access, four of the ladies are no receiving treatment for STIs.
Research shows that girls and women engaged in sex work benefit most when supported by other sex workers. Peer influence is key and is why the peer education programme is so successful. The 91 peer educators have reached 1,594 other girls and women in the sex trade so far this year with vital sexual health messages. This has included raising awareness of a new silicone vaginal ring which can help prevent HIV amongst high risk groups. Those who are in need of medical help have been linked to specialist health services.