By Sola Ogundipe
IN the red light district of Badia, in downtown Lagos, sex workers as young as 14, trying to eke a living, by making money to survive, entertain around five clients a day. Series of photographs taken in the slums of Lagos and published by the Daily Mail shows the faces of sex workers living in squalid conditions. But they are unwittingly selling something else to unwary clients – HIV.
Nigeria has the 2nd higest HIV prevalence in Africa after South Africa. Currently, the HIV prevalence rate in adults in the country is 4.1 per cent according to the Iranian Journal of Public Health. and nearly a quarter of Nigerian sex workers are living with HIV, according to a 2013 survey.
There are currently an estimated 1.2 million people living with HIV in the city. A survey conducted last year has also highlighted that attitudes towards condom use is helping the spread of the condition, and research suggests that nearly a quarter of Nigerian sex workers have HIV.
Thanks to investment and education, the study found, the rate had fallen from five per cent in the early 2000s, but it said there is still some way to go. They charge each client between N1,000 and N2,500 for services rendered.
Another research by the Journal of the International AIDS Society found the prevalence among sex workers in Nigeria was 24.3 per cent.
From the study, it was observed that women often could not negotiate sex because they had no control over making sex partners wear condoms, and were not even expected to carry them.
According to one of the clients, a 28-year-old marketing executive: “The problem is that you cannot even suggest the use of that thing to your boyfriend. It’s like if you say it you are accusing him of sleeping around or that you are not sure of yourself. No matter which one, it can end the relationship and give you a bad name.”
It was gathered that talk and use of condoms was taboo. ‘To confirm this cultural barrier to access to prevention tools, only one female respondent… has ever gone to buy a condom for her boyfriend, while all the other female respondents were of the view that they would not like their parents and spouses to see them with condoms.”
A 42-year-old father of three told researchers in the study: “Any woman, including my wife who tells her husband about it or gets it for them to use needs to be questioned. In short, she should be seriously sanctioned.”