Sex workers not scared of monkeypox

August 03, 2022

Sex workers who use the infamous Port Henderson Road [Back Road] in Portmore, St Catherine, said they are not perturbed by monkeypox even though a person can contract the virus by having sex with an individual who is infected.

Last week the World Health Organization declared monkeypox a global health emergency and has advised persons to reduce the number of sex partners in order to avoid contracting it. The disease can cause symptoms including a rash and blisters and is spread through close contact. But the 'ladies of the night' said they will be taking all the necessary precautions except, at least for now, putting a cap on the number of clients they engage. 'Apple', 24, said that her work was dealt a severe blow during the heights of the COVID pandemic.

"And now dem a go come wid dem foolish 'bout monkeypox? Weh me fi get money from now fi tek care a mi pickney dem, fi pay me bills and take care of miself? A dis mi know 'bout from mi a 18 and a it a mi main source," she said. Her senior colleague, 'Dark Chocolate', said sex workers have survived the worst so she will not amend her modus operandi.

"When AIDS did deh 'bout wicked dem say prostitution dead because nobody nah wah come round here, but just look at us now," exclaimed the 17-year veteran. 'Cherry', however, said she would be following all the necessary health precautions.

"It's the same thing when COVID drop, me say mi nah put miself at that risk. Di work already no easy and it full a risk already so mi nah go add to it. Mi have a likkle side hustle wid a stall so a it mi a go gwan rally back on until this thing blow off," Cherry said.

Dr Mindi Fitz-Henley, president of the Jamaica Medical Doctors' Association, opined that sex workers are no more exposed to monkeypox than the ordinary Jamaican who may rub shoulders in taxis.

"If you think back to even chickenpox when persons have it, it was known that it could always be spread through sex. But at no point would we have said you going to catch chickenpox through sex. We have to remember that yes, sexual workers are at high risk just because of how close their bodies are to that person. But so are other people who are in any sort of close proximity to people. That again would be why other healthcare workers would be at increased risk because of how close they would be with the patient as well," she said.

Fitz-Henley suggested that sex workers need to continue their safe sex practices.

"The truth is, there is a lot of sex workers who come in very regularly to get their check-ups and to get their condoms and do things of that nature. They are a lot more careful than many other persons may be because this is something that they do very often and for a living," she said.

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