The COVID-19 pandemic has amplified pre-existing inequalities and vulnerabilities. For sex workers globally, and in East and Southern Africa specifically, the impact on livelihoods, human rights and health has been devastating, leaving many struggling to survive. Community-based organizations led by sex workers have responded swiftly and creatively to the plight of sex workers in the region to protect this vulnerable population during COVID-19 and its various containment measures. In doing so, they have drawn on trusted community systems, stengthened during the HIV response to reach sex workers during their time of crisis, with a specific focus on ensuring that human rights and health services, particularly those for HIV and sexual and reproductive health and rights, continue.
This report investigates the impact of COVID-19 on sex worker communities and sex worker organizations in East and Southern Africa. It considers both the successes and the failures in the response and identifies positive practices based on how sex worker organizations have responded. The report also considers lessons learned from this and previous humanitarian crises that have affected sex workers, and provides recommendations to ensure that sex workers are not left behind as the COVID-19 pandemic evolves or in future humanitarian crises.