SELEBI-PHIKWE: BONELA has observed that achieving zero HIV infection would remain a dream if the reality that key populations such as lesbians, men having sex with men and commercial sex workers is not taken into consideration.
Selebi-Phikwe is experiencing an increase in a number of lesbians, with 45 already registered with BONELA. Some are from local schools and ages ranging from 18 to 45 years.
The district facilitator ,Molefhi Kamela said that during their day-to-day interactions with lesbians they express concern that they do not have preventative methods like substances use to cover the mouth and fingers during sexual encounters.
“They explain that they are at risk of contracting HIV/AIDS because their gender roles dictate that they perform chores like cooking where cuts may results and they use the same organs for sexual intercourse,” he said.
He said there are also incidences of Gender Based Violence among lesbians, because the lesbian population is small so there are elements of cheating amongst themselves.
He added that this group further indicates that their cases are not treated seriously by the police, hence they are hindered access to health services such as counselling.
He added that though they have not reached schools, their lifestyle confirms that the same sex practices do exist there ,and some have even registered with them.
He said some explained that it just came naturally that they may be females but their sexual orientations are that of men while others said they ended up being lesbians because of bad experiences with male relationships and they believe that their powers are the same when they are lesbians.
For men having sex with men (MSM) BONELA has recorded an increase in numbers but said they cannot associate the practice with economic issues due to the mine closure because even working and financially sustainable men are homosexuals. Others bi-sexual, engaging in relationships with both women and men.
Kamela expressed the need to capacitate health workers to deal with this group. He said they have already registered 33 MSMs in Selebi-Phikwe.
“We advocate for availability of availability of measures such as lubrications to ensure that there is no friction that can results in cuts that could transmit the virus. Currently rely on international donors for such lubrications,” said Kamela.
He further said that government must train health officers on human rights based approach
“These statistics worry us because majority are school going girl who do not have the capacity on sex negotiations. In most cases perpetrators are not prosecuted because families prefer to protect culprits at the expense of the rights of the children,” he said.
Kamela noted that teachers report such cases to the police but parents withdraw them for their own interest hence perpetrators usually walk free when cases are not pursued and even those that proceed to court take too long to conclude affecting the victim in the process. He cited two cases that were withdrawn by families because perpetrators were biological fathers.
BONELA also observed that teenage pregnancy increased because many families are headed by teenagers while parents have left town to make a living. Hence lack of parental guidance contributes to the increasing numbers.
“There is need for us to embark on adolescent and sexual reproductive health education. We are visiting all schools to address students and also planning to meet the Parents Teachers Associations and the community to make then learn to enhance communication with their children.
We plan to encourage them to acquaint themselves with the Children’s Act so that they know the dangers of failing to report cases involving children,” he said.
The BONELA official also highlighted the existence of commercial sex work with majority of them being mobile as they have relocated to areas where they can generate more money and only come home month end.
Kamela said some trends show that some as young as 18 years are initiated into the practice by family members. Some do it professionally and have formal arrangements like appointments and credits for month end payments.
“As long as we deny that key populations exist among the society and plan for them in our health programmes we will never achieve the zero infection rate. Let us accept that they are there,” he said.