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CDC HIV/AIDS/Viral Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update
Ghanian Police Round Up Prostitutes as HIV Spreads Alarmingly
Ben Ephson
November 20, 2001
Agence France Presse (11.15.01) - Tuesday, November 20, 2001

A drive launched by regional police has led to the arrest of scores of prostitutes in Ghana's capital Accra and its outskirts. The campaign is aimed at cleaning up Accra's streets and fighting HIV/AIDS.

Officials in the Ghana AIDS Commission (GAC) told AFP that the number of Ghanaians currently infected with HIV totals about 350,000. According to public health officials, the situation has worsened considerably over the years, culminating in a total of 45,514 reported AIDS cases at the end of last year.

Prostitutes say that although they know about HIV/AIDS and its consequences, they have few options. "When we [prostitutes] are criticized, some of us wonder whether those criticizing us think we are not human beings. Do they think we are... unaware of the dangers of going into rooms alone with a man we do not know?" asked a 28-year old woman named Mary. "Especially when for the past three years, when the spate of serial killings of over 30 women gripped Accra? Or this issue of HIV/AIDS?" Mary's job at a hair salon fetches her only $25 a month, too little to sustain her and her two children. Prostitution was a lot easier, she said. "The charges depend on the way business has gone for that day or the type of client. On an average day, I charge the equivalent of $5 for a short time and $20 overnight." While she insists that her client use condoms, she admits to making exceptions on "bad" days.

Jane, another prostitute, said that she would have unprotected sex for $7. According to Jane, it is all a part of occupational risks. "HIV/AIDS is a risk that some of us consider as an occupational hazard. It's like a driver having an accident... There is no way any prostitute will go to bed with a certified AIDS patient, but we all have occupational risks."