Association for Women at risk from AIDS (AWA) is an association for sex workers which has, since 1993, carried out HIV/AIDS awareness programs in towns across Senegal. Armed with educational brochures and wearing T-shirts with their stylish logo — a pair of hands with painted nails and bangles beating a pink tam-tam with "HIV" on the drumhead — the women have taken their message about AIDS prevention to the streets.
AWA (a translation of "Eve") grew out of an AIDS prevention campaign at Dakar's Polyclinic. In 1993, clinic staff began regular sessions to inform sex workers about AIDS and STIs. Inspired by their new knowledge and with the support of clinic staff, the women requested additional training so they could pass on the information to their clients and to the clandestine sex workers who are not registered with the local STI clinic.
There are about 300 sex workers enrolled in AWA in five towns in Senegal. Organised through the government-run STI clinics that treat legal sex workers, AWA has a 10-member board composed of sex workers, midwives, social workers, and AIDS experts. "The prostitutes have the decision-making power," explained Marième Soumaré, who is a social worker and co-founder of AWA. "But most are not literate, so we help organise activities and apply for funding."
"AWA lets us take our place among the women of our society. At International AIDS day, all the women are there, and I am, too. Before, we didn't dare participate … We were only in the waiting room of the clinic. Now, we have something to share with other women," said Madina Bambera, a former sex worker and current AWA board member.
Sex Workers Promote AIDS Awareness in Senegal: http://www.prb.org/Publications/Articles/2000/SexWorkersPromoteAIDSAwarenessinSenegal.aspx (news article)
By Victoria Ebin, Population Reference Bureau
Additional related resources:
Senegal: Prostitution - Frontline of the War to Contain HIV: http://allafrica.com/stories/200106290227.html (news article)
29 June 2001
By Ofeibea Quist-Arcton, All Africa
Society for Women and Aids in Africa: http://www.swaagh.org/ (website)