Sex workers project Uganda

We believe that the end of AIDS is possible if there is more focus on key populations. Our project in Uganda addresses barriers faced by the sex workers community related to their sexual and reproductive health and rights. Driven by community champions, we work to realize more sex workers accessing friendly and comprehensive services; evidence-based programming tailored to the needs of sex workers; confident and healthy sex workers; more favourable policies and an enabling environment; and improved coordination among strong key population-led organisations.

Criminalisation of sex work

In Uganda, the Anti-Pornography Act was introduced in 2014. As a result numerous women have been harassed by the police. They were deemed ‘sexually exciting’ because of the way they looked or dressed. Criminalisation and stigmatisation make sex workers highly susceptible to exploitation, violence, STIs and HIV. In Uganda, public opinion is quite hostile towards sex workers, fuelled by some influential conservative Christian churches. Stigma and discrimination reduces their access to health and social services, which subsequently increases their vulnerability and the HIV risks they face. In addition, male sex workers are confronted with homophobia and criminalisation of homosexuality. In 2014, Uganda also made it a crime to ’wilfully and intentionally’ transmit HIV, which further increased criminalisation of sex workers.

Instead of reducing the high HIV prevalence in our country, the government is increasing it by introducing new laws that make it harder for us to access HIV treatment

Daisy Nakato, WONETHA, Uganda

Uganda faces a generalised HIV epidemic with an estimated number of 1.6 million people living with HIV. Among adults (aged 15-49) the HIV prevalence rate is 7.3%. However, among sex workers the rate is 34.2% nationally. Although sex work contributes to 11% of new HIV transmissions, it is only recently that government support to the needs of sex workers and other key populations is growing.

Sex workers claim a right-based HIV and SRHR response

Bridging the Gaps works with a Theory of Change approach. A Theory of Change is a description of a list of events that is expected to lead to a particular desired outcome. It is a visualization how change is believed to happen. In 2016, representatives of the sex worker community developed a Theory of Change that consists of short-,medium, and long term outcomes. The specified Theory of Change of the sex workers project describes how we plan to realize more sex workers accessing friendly and comprehensive services; evidence-based programming tailored to the needs of sex workers; confident and healthy sex workers; more favourable policies and an enabling environment; and improved coordination among strong key population-led organisations.

Through innovation and by building on previous work, we will strengthen civil society organisations’ ability to:We facilitate community development:

1. We facilitate community development

  • Facilitating development of sex worker communities, organisations and members to register members.
  • Training leaders of sex workers organisations on coalition building, partnership and networking.
  • Developing a three year advocacy strategy.
  • Developing an outreach manual and training peer-educators.

2. We advocate for the continuously strengthening of services and upholding human rights

  • Collecting human rights violations and developing human rights cases.
  • Training stakeholders, police, local leaders, lodge managers and sex workers human rights, security care and management.
  • Conducting stigma index among sex workers.
  • Organizing non-residential training of religious leaders and media. 

3. We deliver inclusive, rights-based and gender sensitive services

  • Strengthening health referral and linkage systems. of Health of Uganda and EAC;
  • Providing comprehensive right based services that meet the needs of sex workers.
  • Offering more accessible services through outreach at hotspots.
  • Holding individual and group health sessions.
  • Providing legal support for sex workers, for example sex workers who have been bonded
  • out of police, bailed out of prison, represented in courts of law.
  • Organizing non-residential training of media houses on positive reporting, security
  • management and human rights of sex workers.
  • Facilitating peer educators and sex workers to demand and utilise services that meet their needs.
  • Promoting condom and lubricant use and distribution of condoms and lube.
  • Developing sex worker friendly messages.

4. We foster global and in-country process and partnerships that reinforce results

  • Demanding rights at high level meetings.

Our partners

Our project builds on the strong advocacy work of our partners WONETHA and North Star Alliance to put sex workers’ health issues on the political agenda and to provide rights-based health services. Their work is internationally supported by Aidsfonds.