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Aug 9, 2016

SEX WORKERS & TRUCKERS' JOB * Africa: Highways for HIV

* Africa's highways of heartbreak: Left untreated, those with the virus will inevitably go on to develop, and die

--- As night envelopes the South African city of Durban, the lights from its port - the largest on the continent - burn a deep orange reminiscent of fire... From here, and South Africa's other major port in Cape Town, roads thread out across the country, some skirting around the nation's largest city Johannesburg, before heading deep inland, crisscrossing the continent with their cargo... Fresh fruit and vegetables, raw materials and consumer goods funnel their way into the interior... However, there's something else hitching a ride. Something deadly. And it's almost as easy to unload as one of the truck's containers, HIV... Africa's main roads are highways for HIV. There is still no cure which means, left untreated, those with the virus will inevitably go on to develop, and die, from AIDS... AIDS deaths are almost unheard of in the west these days but globally a million people died from AIDS last year. Many of those are in Sub-Saharan Africa where the paths of so many sex workers and truckies intersect... Zimbabwe, it's the country where the main truck routes pass through after leaving South Africa... 

... Where truckies stop the danger to their, and other people's health, starts. A proportion of the trucking community are very effectively transporting HIV across Africa, with Zimbabwe the nexus of the epidemic... The raw numbers tell a sorry story. One study, in Malawi, found AIDS killed more truckies than malaria or road accidents... And while the rate of HIV in the Zimbabwean general population is around 15 per cent, in sex workers it can be as high as 58 per cent... The highway that leads from Jacobs through Africa's heart is still stained with the tears of the young men and women who live, and sometimes die, from a disease we still can't cure... 
(Photo: Fighting HIV among sex workers and truck drivers in the Beira "corridor", part of the city's informal prostitution)   --  Durban, South Africa - The NZ Herald, by Benedict Brook - 8 August 2016

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