Streets kids at risk of becoming sex workers

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Selma Ikela

Windhoek – Street kids are potential sex workers thus the government should recognise them as key populations affected by HIV and Aids.
This is according to the executive director of Rights Not Rescue Trust of Namibia, Nikodemus Aoxamub.

Aoxamub, popularly known as Mama Africa, said this is the right time for street kids to be included in the national strategic framework on HIV and Aids as a key population to know how many are infected with HIV/Aids.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) defines key population as people living with HIV and are considered a key population in all epidemic contexts. The guidelines define most-at-risk populations as men who have sex with men, transgender people, people who inject drugs and sex workers.

“I don’t want to see a Namibian child eating from dustbins as a street kid and later become a sex worker and later infected with HIV,” remarked Aoxamub, himself a product of the streets.

He became a street kid at the age of nine and later transitioned into a sex worker. Aoxamub said he sees the trend repeating itself if no measures are put in place.

Aoxamub said that when he currently stands at his hotspot at night as a sex worker he sees some street kids who are trading as sex workers. He said back then when he became a street kid they sniffed glue for intoxication, drank alcohol and used drugs.

“You are vulnerable when you are a street kid. A man can come to you and demand sex without a condom. He might offer N$50 and you are a young child – you will just go for that, to buy yourself bread or alcohol.”

He said as an organisation they promote sex workers’ rights and decriminalisation of sex work in Namibia but they fear working with street kids as the government might think they are promoting child exploitation towards sex work. Aoxamub thus called on the Ministry of Gender Equality and Child Welfare to find out why these children are on the streets, and wants them integrated back into society and school.

He asked that a survey be conducted to find out how many street children are in the country, how many are infected with HIV and Aids and other diseases as well. “I know what I am talking about because during the day I was a street kid and at night I was a sex worker.”

Relating his own story, Aoxamub said he was raised by a single mother who had more than 12 children and thus he began going around looking for something to eat as sometimes they went hungry at home. His father, who left Aoxamub’s mother pregnant, left the country for the liberation struggle in exile but never returned.

“I never saw a father in the house, only a mother and it was really tough for a single mother to raise 12 children. That’s how I began struggling around for something to eat because sometimes we went hungry. I made some friends and through them I became a street kid. When you become a street kid you use alcohol and drugs and it’s the same what current street kids are using,” Aoxamub related.

Ministry of Gender Equality and Child Welfare’s senior PRO Charlie Matengu said there is a difference between street kids and children who come from home to trade as sex workers.

“We are not aware of it. If there is, we want to investigate and re-integrate them. There are girls who come from home and go back. But I’m not ruling out the possibility. If Mama Africa can give us a spot we can go investigate and, if we can, assist,” said Matengu.

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