We are not protected at all when we are with clients. There is very little that we can do to protect ourselves from the virus. Even if I have a mask, maybe the client doesn’t have a mask. We don’t have any sanitiser to sanitise the clients. Where we work, in the bushes next to the road, there is not even water to wash with. We are scared, and so are the clients – which is why they’re no longer coming to us.
Sometimes the police arrive and tell us to go. There is a certain time of day when they come past, which is another reason why I don’t stay where I usually work for too long. But they haven’t arrested anyone. They just warn us to go home.
There is no such thing as physical distancing where I live. We have been told to stay at home and stay away from others, but we don’t do that at all. I can’t stay inside a shack all day. I need to go out and try to find a way to get something to eat.
Sex work is illegal in South Africa. If it was decriminalised, we could be like other workers and apply to the Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF). I have applied for the one-off relief of R350 ($24) that the government announced for unemployed people, but so far I’ve had nothing.
We have been getting support from the NGO SWEAT (Sex Workers Education and Advocacy Taskforce), and I get medical care and my ARVs from TB HIV Care. But they are also struggling to give us what we need. What I need most is food and money for rent.
(SWEAT is fundraising to support sex workers in South Africa affected by COVID-19. Donations can be made here.)
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