*East Side brothel located in Okoko LGA in Ibadan, Oyo State is one the oldest brothels in Ibadan. Okoko is an urban community and like many urban communities in Nigeria features a vibrant commercial sector with all other trappings of an urban community such as a Divisional Police Station, Motor and Okada transport parks, petrol stations, Mosques and Churches.
*Ade, East Side’s Manager, had lived in Okoko for over 10 years and when the Strengthening HIV Prevention Services for Most at Risk Populations (SHiPS for MARPs) programme began its behaviour change interventions in Ibadan, he was instrumental in mobilising female sex workers (FSWs) for the programme partly because of his knowledge of the community. Even though Ade was very involved with the programme at the very beginning and even encouraged FSWs to participate in the programme, he always found an excuse not to attend the mobile HIV counselling and testing service provided by the programme.
Although it is not apparent what changed his mind, maybe the persistence of the programme officers or maybe he was encouraged by the FSWs who’d mustered enough courage to get tested, but Ade finally decided to find out his HIV status and was in fact the first client to be attended to on the day. He said, “I want to know my HIV status today……I have just been postponing it over the past years”.
Ade revealed later that he’d been afraid that the nature of his job and risky sexual behaviours may have exposed him to the virus and as a result had refused to find out his HIV status because it was better to live in ignorance than deal with a positive result. Upon receiving his result Ade’s relief at being negative was palpable. He vowed to follow through with the risk reduction plan agreed with his counsellor and increase efforts to mobilise female sex workers in his brothel who had previously refused HIV counselling and testing services, to get tested as it is better to know. They all participated voluntarily. Ade has since made HIV prevention a top priority in his brothel.
The Strengthening HIV Prevention Services for Most-at-Risk Populations (SHiPS for MARPs) project is a five year project funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and managed by a consortium of partners. The project primarily focused on populations vulnerable to HIV and AIDS; MARPs and their clients works to prevent new infections by promoting behaviour change through education to increase accurate knowledge, create demand for HIV counselling and testing, consistent condom use and develop appropriate communication intervention to reduce stigma and discrimination.
Society for Family Health Nigeria… Creating Change, Enhancing Lives
*To protect his privacy the beneficiary’s, brothel and community names have been changed