Bridging the Gaps Sex Work South Africa SWEAT

Bridging the Gaps Sex Work South Africa SWEAT


HIV hits sex workers hard and disproportionately and it remains difficult for them to have control over the risks they face. Sex workers have to deal with a mix of legal, political and social factors that institutionalise stigma and social exclusion. Under Bridging the Gaps, SWEAT and the sex worker-led organisation Sisonke aim to strengthen civil society in holding governments to account. They also work towards increasing access to sexual and reproductive health and rights. SWEAT and Sisonke focus on strengthening the sex worker movement and by promoting the legal hotline, access to justice will be increased. The Legal Defence Centre holds legal clinics across the country. To increase knowledge on sex workers' access to health and HIV services, SWEAT will implement a study on the impact of community empowerment on sex workers’ access to HIV services.

Project details

Time frame
01 July 2016 - 31 December 2020
€ 459,521
Active in
South Africa

Western Cape, Gauteng, Durban, Limpopo, Eastern Cape, East London, Mpumulanga

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Partners under the Bridging the Gaps programme aim to end AIDS among key populations. If civil society is strengthened, if fulfilment of human rights for key populations is increased and if sexual and reproductive health is improved and HIV transmission reduced, governments will be hold to account and AIDS among key populations can end. Specific outcomes of SWEAT and Sisonke include increased access to legal and health services for sex workers and a strong sex worker movement across South Africa.

Community groups

Over the full project period, around 500 sex workers will participate in the Gauteng Legislation’s Sex Workers parliament advocating for sex workers rights. To increase access to legal services 50 sex workers will be trained in legal aid. Through the Legal Advice hotline over 600 sex workers will be supported with their legal issues. To strengthen the sex worker movement Sisonke aims to increase membership to 1.000 members, with representatives in all provinces.


Sex work is still criminalised in South Africa. Over the past years a continued increase in violence against sex workers was seen. This was particularly seen in the number of incidences inflicted by local community members and neighbours of sex workers. In the past year a major political shift has taken place in South Africa with the African National Congress adapting a policy in support of full decriminalisation.

South Africa still has the largest portion of new HIV infections in the region. HIV prevalence remains high (19.2%) among the general population in South Africa and HIV prevalence among sex workers is even higher with an average of 57.7%.

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