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The Observer reports that prostitution may be made temporarily legal in South Africa during the football World Cup in 2010 in order to try and “limit HIV infection among millions of fans visiting the country for the tournament”. Nice to see that football fans’ desire to use sex workers is so much more important that the health and safety of the sex workers themselves, huh?

Those who support the proposals are calling for the registration and mandatory HIV testing of sex workers – 50% of whom are estimated to be infected with the virus – meaning only those who pass the test will be able to legally engage in sex work. South African sex workers’ rights and advocacy group SWEAT explain why mandatory HIV testing is not in sex workers’ best interests:

Window periods in which infections cannot be detected

It is common knowledge that certain diseases, such as HIV, can exist in the body for a certain period without being picked up in medical tests. The virus can be transmitted during this period. A client who expects a sex worker to be free of STI’s because he/she has a health certificate stipulating this, may be more likely to insist on unprotected sex and may become infected. Mandatory testing thus increases the risk of contracting HIV rather than minimising this risk.

Violation of rights

The South African Constitution guarantees the right not to be unfairly discriminated against, the right to dignity, the right to privacy, and the right to freedom and security of the person. All these rights would be violated by laws requiring sex workers to have compulsory checkups.

Furthermore, compulsory testing for HIV contravenes the HIV/AIDS Charter.

Sex workers are made responsible for the spread of HIV & STI’s

Requiring sex workers to undergo mandatory health checks places the responsibility for the transfer of STI’s solely with the sex worker. The medical fact that male clients are more likely to infect female sex workers is ignored.

By requiring only sex workers to have check ups, authorities are stating that they are not interested in the health of the sex worker but are merely concerned with the health of the client.

Furthermore, by criminalising sex workers who are infected, authorities discourage sex workers from being tested.

More here.

HIV/AIDs campaigners have spoken out against the proposals, arguing that the government should not be prioritising concern for foreigners over its own citizens:

“The clear way forward to help tackle the tens of thousands of women forced into prostitution through poverty is to legalise it now, not to make it a temporary measure for the World Cup,” said Vuyiseka Dubula of the Treatment Action Campaign.

“We need prostitution decriminalised now so we can start to help these women, many of whom have been abused and brutalised from a young age.”

I guess it’s too much to ask that football fans try and find it within themselves to keep it in their pants and not risk perpetuating that abuse.