South Africans react as sex workers get new clinic


Many South Africans wondered why sex workers should be given an extra chance to health care services since sex work remains illegal in the country.

In response to the new clinic established for sex workers in the country, Sisonke representative, Zukiswa Ngobo said that sex workers are often stigmatised or turned away from healthcare facilities used by the general public:

“So called nurses and doctors… fail to render us services, call us irresponsible and call us names. They don’t know how it is like to be a sex worker.”

Ngobo further expressed the community’s gratitude to now have a space at SWEAT to seek treatment.

The new clinic has been established to serve the healthcare needs of sex workers and their families. It was reported to have been opened at the Sex Workers Education and Advocacy Taskforce (SWEAT) head office. SWEAT is an organisation working throughout South Africa to provide services and advocacy for the sex workers’ community since the 1990s.

In response to this, some South Africans believed that the establishment of this clinic will no doubt encourage sex working in the country which is said to be prohibited. Some however feel that the government should lock up the hospital as a way of preventing such notorious act.

It has been reported that the facility is a brightly painted structure just behind SWEAT’s headquarters in Observatory. In attendance were partners in the clinic’s launch: AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) South Africa, SWEAT, and national sex workers’ movement Sisonke as well as community members. This is the first clinic of its kind in Cape Town.

Furthermore, Sally Shackleton, Director of Sex Workers Education and Advocacy Taskforce at SWEAT, explained that the goal of the clinic is to provide holistic general health care for sex workers, their families and wider communities.

“This clinic is a milestone,” said Hilary Thulare, Country Programme Director for AHF. Thulare said that though AHF’s main drive was fighting the spread of HIV/AIDS, the organisation knows the disease “exists because of other issues” and reiterated the importance of treatment for sex workers’ general health needs. She too appealed to sex workers in attendance: “You need to be leaders… we need to hear your voice.”

The clinic was launched recently and had large number of people in attendance. The clinic is named in memory of Cym Van Dyke, a trans sex work activist who was involved with SWEAT’s mission to advocate for sex workers from the organisation’s beginning.

One of the SWEAT members who seeks to be anonymous stated that the establishment of the clinic is never a way to encourage sex workers but to provide health care services to them since they are currently facing stigmatization from the people. She further encouraged the sex workers to find a better source of living as sex working is prohibited in South Africa.

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