…they travel to Kumasi, Tema, Takoradi, others for sex

Though difficult to know the exact figure of female sex workers (FSWs) in Ghana, it has been estimated that their population  is between 47,780 and 58,920, according to a new study.

And about 90% of the FSWs in the country were categorized as roamers while the remaining 10% are seaters, says the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) in a study published April 12, 2013.

According to the study which was to know the HIV vulnerability among FSWs in Ghana, there are two main categories of FSWs – the roamers and seaters. The roamers are those who are mobile and travel to actively seek clients while the seaters are stationary and work out of their homes or brothels.

The IOM indicated that 46% of sex workers interviewed were mobile and they travel for sex work in the three months prior to the interview.

“FSWs were also mobile, with 46% of respondents having travelled for sex work in the three months prior to the interview,” the IOM said. The interviews were conducted in November and December 2011 with 559 FSWs.

The most popular destinations for the FSWs were Kumasi, Tema and Techiman along the Tema-Paga transport corridor and Accra, Sunyani and Takoradi outside the corridor, the organization added.

The study concluded that roamers are more vulnerable to HIV infection than seaters because of their “frequent movements, concurrent multiple non-paying partnerships and not always having condoms while at work”.

The study findings also indicated that the seaters were older, less mobile, have more dependents and earn less income from sex work than roamers.

Ghana’s overall prevalence of HIV infection among FSWs in 2011 was estimated at 11.1%, according to the IOM with a prevalence of 6.6% among roamers and 21.4% among seaters.

The IOM noted that 91% of the FSWs interviewed were Ghanaian nationals in their late 20s who claimed to have entered into sex work due to poverty and continued this work due to economic hardship. But IOM’s researchers found that most FSWs intended to stop sex work if they received alternative financial assistance.

Among the key findings was the high level of consistent condom use by FSWs with clients (90.2%), but the majority (53.3%) were inconsistent condom users with non-paying partners.

Roamers were also found to have significantly more non-paying partners than seaters.

IOM and its research partners recommended the revamping of HIV prevention programmes to target not only FSWs in Ghana, but also their non-paying partners and clients with behaviour change communications (BCC) messages and income generating activities to stop sex work.

“The movement of people, goods and services across Ghana continues to increase including various migrant populations. It is therefore important to understand the links between HIV, migration and mobility to create effective HIV programme interventions,” the study quoted Dr Aden Guliye, Head of IOM Ghana’s Migration Health Unit as saying.

The study was funded by UNAIDS and conducted by IOM in partnership with Management Strategies for Africa (MSA) and the West African Programme to Combat AIDS and STI (WAPCAS).