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Food insecurity is driving women in Africa into sex work, increasing HIV risk

"I could not resist anything. ... I needed money."

“Be subject therefore unto God; but resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” – James 4:7 

GOATS AND SODA – The first time she traded sex for food to feed her family, J was 14 years old. Her father died when she was an infant, leaving her single mother to care for her and her six siblings in her native village in eastern Uganda.

She soon gave birth to a baby girl, and her family continued to struggle to eat.

So at 16, lured by a relative and the prospect of earning money as a maid, J left her baby behind and traveled 101 miles to the capital to find work so she could send money back home.

“We [had] nothing to eat, nothing to drink, nothing to feed the baby, to dress the baby — nothing,” she told NPR. “I thought when I was in the village that things are easy here in Kampala, that I will find peace, I will work.”

Then, famine struck her village and her daughter became ill.

“I could not resist anything. … I needed money.”

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“The pressure was too high for me,” she said. “At that time, in my mind, I could not resist anything. … I needed money to take care of my mama and the baby,” she said.

J turned to sex work to make money. J’s clients were willing to pay more for sex without a condom, which let her send more money back home. But it also put her at greater risk for contracting HIV.

At age 22, J tested positive. [NPR referred to her by her first initial because of what it calls “the stigma surrounding HIV and sex work.” Sadly, tamping down negative societal views of dangerous and immoral activity only encourages it, resulting more more disease. – HH]

Many women and girls living with food insecurity in sub-Saharan Africa face this dilemma.

A study published in July by ICAP at Columbia University found that severe food insecurity approximately doubles the risk of contracting HIV among women in six countries in the region, because it often leads them to engage in transactional sex …

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READ MORE. 

The NPR story references “the stigma surrounding HIV and sex work.” Should the stigma be removed from these topics? Comment below. 

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