Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi has laughed at claims that poverty and hardship are to blame for the growing number of sex workers in Samoa.
He has also attacked the “newspaper” over its coverage of the issue describing the reporting as “rubbish.”
Tuilaepa was responding during his weekly media programme yesterday.
He was asked for a comment on the connection being made between hardship, poverty and sex work.
“If that is true then you shouldn’t find that in America, the wealthiest country in the world, yet there are a lot of women like that in America,” Tuilaepa said.
“That’s where it’s wrong; you can’t control this type of behavior.”
Tuilaepa then had a go at a “newspaper” which he did not name.
“I know the newspaper is trying hard,” he said laughing.
“It doesn’t matter how far off the issue is, they always try to pull it towards my doorstep. They blame me as the reason for everything.
“That’s why I hardly read their rubbish, I try to free my mind day after day, to avoid being dragged into issues.”
Earlier this week, the Samoa Observer revealed that in 2016, the number of female sex workers in Samoa was estimated at around 400.
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 had 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. 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.”
The Prime Minister was responding to an article published by the Samoa Observer that there are an estimated 400 female sex workers in Samoa and most women are doing sex work for economic reasons.
The Prime Minister stated in any country there is good and bad.
The health report is evidence of Samoa’s commitment to the global response to HIV, AIDS, and Sexual Transmitted Infection’s.