Paying members of an association of sex workers on Fitiné Island in Lake Chad were having a harder time making a living, said Hadjé Gomssou, 45, the association president. Although she has been widowed twice, she has never been tested for HIV. For years the fishing industry provided her with a steady stream of clients, but recently it has declined, and with it the sex trade.
"Men can choose whether or not they want to use condoms, but not us, because we are desperate and do not have the choice. Plus, I have fewer clients than before because a lot of the fishermen have left the islands, unable to find fish, or [until recently] banned from selling it.
"Clients and sex workers say condoms spread AIDS because they [condoms] have the virus implanted. I have heard that there are pills you can take if you get the virus, but it would be too hard for us to get treatment. It is hard for us to get off the island, especially because we cannot leave our children if we need to go to the hospital.
"I had never seen anyone get tested for HIV until recently, and they almost always hide their results. When health workers recently came for testing [on the island] I was in Nigeria.
"A lot of women did not even know there was going to be testing, or what the test was about. I am thinking about going to Bol [regional hospital, a five-hour trip by motorboat], but the results will scare me and cause me anxiety.
"The more people learn about HIV, [the more] people start to fear us. It is not like before when we were much more valued."
"Sex workers are between two fires of illness and poverty, which can both push us into prostitution."
This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions
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