In 2016, the number of female sex workers in Samoa was estimated at around 400. The age during which some of them began sex work ranged from 13 to 21 years old.
This is according to the Multi-country Mapping and Behavioural study 2016, quoted by the Ministry of Health in their sixth annual report to UNAIDS.
A copy of the report has been obtained by the Samoa Observer.
“The Pacific Multi-country Mapping and Behavioural Study 2016 found that there are an estimated 400 female sex workers in Samoa,” the report reads. “Most women are doing sex work for economic reasons.
“Payment varies considerably from $50 to $200 tala."
“These women have a wide range of clients, including local and foreign men and 58.3% had children and the majority had no other employment.”
The study was the work of the U.N.D.P, U.N.I.C.E.F and the University of New South Wales which called for urgent need for reforms in Pacific island countries to adequately address HIV and sexually transmitted infections (S.T.Is) among vulnerable populations.
It examined the behaviour risk factors and social and structural determinants of risk that drive the epidemic among vulnerable groups, such as men who have sex with men, transgender people, sex workers and seafarers.
Samoa was among nine countries the Study covered.
According to the report, the number of partners some of the women have had in the last 12 months was 10. Nine were clients.
“Only 33% of the participants used a condom on the last occasion of vaginal intercourse with a client; a majority were inconsistent condom users with clients in the last 12 months,” the report reads.
“Condom use with casual non- paying partners was low; 50% used a condom on the last occasion.”
The report further says that a minority of the women drank alcohol and their HIV knowledge was moderate.
“None of the women had accessed a sexual health service in the last 12 months, although 60% had been given condoms in that period."
“None had been tested for HIV in the previous 12 months."
“There is therefore a need for extensive condom programming and health education outreach to this group."
“Interventions should also seek to provide female sex workers with housing, sanitation, and economic services to support their participation in prevention interventions,” says the report.
The Chief Executive Officer of the Ministry of Health, Leausa Toleafoa Dr. Take Naseri, said their sixth annual report to UNAIDS since 2010 this year entitled Global AIDS Monitoring (GAM Report) is evidence of Samoa’s commitment to the global response to HIV, AIDS, and STI’s.
This commitment stems from the “Political Declaration on HIV/AIDS: Intensifying their efforts to eliminate HIV/AIDS.
He pointed out that in 2016, Samoa signed the new political declaration agreeing to end the HIV epidemic by 2030 within the framework of the Sustainable Development Goals and this reaffirmed their commitment.
He said the Global AIDS Monitoring Report is highly regarded with an in-depth analysis of core indicators that provide insight into our national efforts in alleviating HIV/AIDS through collective prevention initiatives and programs carried out by our various committed stakeholders and health sector partners.
“In addition, sexually transmitted infections (STI’s) pose considerable threats to morbidity and possible mortality in both adults of reproductive age and newborns."
“STI’s can also significantly increase the risk of HIV transmission if not addressed in our population."
“If STI’s are not managed and prevented, they can contribute negatively to healthcare costs attributable to treatment and care, program management, and other costs that will in turn affect the government’s overall health budget."
“While much has been done by our various partners, there is still room for more strategic interventions to counteract these largely preventable diseases. Samoa’s new HIV, AIDS and STI Policy 2017-2021 is set to launch this year and is aimed to guide the national response to combat new and ongoing challenges.”
He pointed out that over the years, Samoa has received financial support from several international and regional partners.
“The government of Samoa also contributes significantly through providing human resources and managing the logistical aspects of the National Programme for HIV, AIDS, STI’s and TB.”
Leausa stated the government through the Ministry of Health acknowledges the continuous support rendered by the UNDP/ Global Fund to Fight HIV, Tuberculosis and Malaria.
“Without this support, our people living with HIV or AIDS would not receive free treatment,” said the Chief Executive Officer.