As Nigerians prepare for the World AIDS Day, commercial sex workers in Sokoto say they have adopted the principle of “no condom, no sex” as part of efforts to protect themselves from contracting HIV virus.
The sex workers told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in separate interviews on Monday in Sokoto that the measure had protected them from the HIV virus and other Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs).
They said that HIV was real and advised young girls and older women in their line of business to protect themselves against the virus.
In one of the brothels located at Sharp Corner, a suburb of Sokoto City, one of the sex workers told NAN that she was doing “everything possible” to maintain her HIV-free status.
“I spend part of my proceeds on condom because I do not accept customer’s condom. I try to protect my self and advise other girls in the business to do the same.
“I believe we should use a condom with whoever comes to our rooms. It is very important for protection. I use my own. I do not use my customer’s condom because this world is funny.
“Let us assume you are my customer and you come here with a condom, I will not accept it. No matter the quality of what you bring, I will use my own. HIV is real and you must use a condom.
“I go to the hospital for HIV screening after every three months to know my status,” she said.
Another sex worker, a 22-year-old girl, who claimed to be a trained medical laboratory scientist, told NAN that she insists on condom to protect herself from HIV.
“I know much about HIV because I am a trained medical laboratory scientist but found myself in this line of work. I may not like the job I am doing, but I value my life.
“So, no condom, no sex. That is my principle,” she declared.
A teenager in another brothel also told NAN that she learnt about HIV/AIDS through radio and from conversations with people about the virus.
She said: “I will not sleep with anyone without a condom even if he offers to pay a higher amount. Some will offer N10,000 or more to sleep with me without a condom.
“But I always turn it down because of the high risk involved. I am okay with the little amount I am getting. At least it is keeping me alive.”
NAN however found that while there seems to be some level of condom use among commercial sex workers in some brothels in the state, efforts to promote the use in hotels have not been successful.
Alhaji Umar Alkammawa, Executive Secretary, Sokoto State Agency for the Control of AIDS, Tuberculosis and Leprosy (SOSACAT), told NAN that public promotion of the use of condoms was very difficult in that part of the country.
“Sometimes back, we met with some hotel managers and encouraged them to provide condoms to their guests, but with little success.
“This is because marketing condoms in this part of the country will portray us as a government that encourages people to commit fornication and adultery,” he said.
Confirming this argument, the Accountant of Dankani Guest Palace Hotel, Sokoto, Mr Abdulazeez Jimoh, said that keeping condoms in rooms would scare away some guests who might find it insulting.
Similarly, Mr Kamilu Ibrahim, Personnel Manager, Sokoto Guest Inn, said that the hotel does not provide condoms for guests because it would project the facility in a negative light.
Ibrahim, however, said that prostitutes were not allowed to lodge in the hotel.
At Usman Danfodio University Guess Inn, the Manager, Mr Mohammed Kabir, told NAN that there was no need for condoms in the hotel.
Kabir explained that the hotel does not allow any man to lodge with a lady other than his wife, adding that unmarried guests were also not allowed to have male or female visitors in the room.
Meanwhile, Mr Mohammed Kangiwa, Focal Person, Voluntary Counselling and Testing Centre, Usman Danfodio University, Sokoto, has said that there was a significant improvement in voluntary HIV testing.
Abdulazeez Jimoh, Accountant, Dankani Guest PalacecHotel, Sokoto
Kangiwa told NAN that the number of people coming to the facility for voluntary HIV screening had increased from an average of 10 persons to about 50 persons daily.
He added that individuals, couples and commercial sex workers regularly visit the facility for voluntary HIV screening to know their status.
“This, to us, is a good development in the efforts to reduce new infection of the virus,” he said.