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14/08/2012 - Costa Rica

"Raising awareness is a prevention strategy"

Members of La Sala were dedicated in recent months to sensitize health professionals and public officials, and also provide workshops to female sex workers.

After several months of work and visits to the area, the Costa Rican fellows managed to arrange a meeting with officials and health professionals of Punta Arenas to evaluate together how to improve friendly services for female sex workers and how to banish the stigma, because "raising awareness is a prevention strategy. Is essential creating awareness about our problems and difficulties, to be provided of a better service and health care", explained Nubia Ordoñez, president of La Sala.

"We were congratulated for our work, but also got to know the economic difficulties they have to offer free care services for female sex workers which require so", Nubia told.

This time, officials collaborated with the workshop on HIV prevention that La Sala gave to female sex workers, "they gave us the room for the workshop and helped us in the call for the meeting, which was very productive", said from La Sala.

The fellows training allowed provide them of greater capacity to ensure safe-sex, get them conscious about access to treatment, among other essential aspects to stop the spread of epidemics.

In a short time the fellows of Costa Rica will return to evaluate the awareness work done with medical equipment and to have new encounters with those decision-makers on matters of public policies that improve the quality of life of female sex workers.

From Punta Arenas to San José

As part of a comprehensive health project being conducted by the organization La Sala —with support from PSI PASMO—breast exams were performed with an assistance of 52 female sex workers who do not have social security. Also, during the project, were given lectures and consultations on the use of male and female condoms and STI and HIV.

The attending physicians were surprised by the large number of inquiries received in La Sala. "We explained to them that there is a great need of women and their clients to make the test of HIV, but they do not like to go to the health unit because they feel uncared and they are scolded. We suggest them to change how they treat the patients, and then they will see changes", said Nubia.

Unfortunately, in health systems prejudices and discrimination by health professionals continue due to lack of training and awareness. This situation generates that many fellows do not have their checks for avoiding bad experiences, acting as a barrier for the prevention or treatment.

Definitely, it is the recognition —and not indifference or denial— which will allow generating a healthy and fairer society, where all female sex workers have access to the full enjoyment of their rights.