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close this bookOutreach to Sex Workers in Noumea, New Caledonia (UNAIDS - Best Practice Digest, 2000, 3 p.)
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Outreach to Sex Workers in Noumea, New Caledonia

Extracted from Pacific AIDS Alert, No 17, 1999

In Noumea, New Caledonia, the NGOs-Association AIDS NC conducts an outreach project for sex workers. An important part of the work is the bus which visits sex workers on the street twice weekly.

The rear of the bus's cabin is equipped with a simple picnic table where coffee, tea and biscuits can be served and where people can sit around and talk. The atmosphere is relaxed and friendly, the approach is casual, there's no preaching, just the opportunity for talk, a warm drink and distribution of condoms.

Trust is an essential part of this work. If someone wants to discuss personal matters, they may stay in the bus when the others go or telephone or call at the office. The workers on the bus are seen as people to be trusted, friends to be talked to. No-one is trying to get people to change their lifestyles, no-one sits in judgement.

The two workers on the bus are concerned that recent police raids may mean they lose touch with their 'clients.' The police seem to have decided that sex workers could congregate where the bus stopped but nowhere else in the city. The workers on the bus are also concerned about younger people who had sex for money but were only part-timers. Because they only had sex when they needed money, there was no particular focus point for them to be contacted. Because they were generally younger and worked individually, rather than as part of a group or from one place, they may be at greater risk of infection.

There are other outreach projects in the Pacific but the bus in Noumea is special; it can offer real conviviality on otherwise unfriendly streets, and because it is a bus, it goes to sex workers and gives them somewhere to go. The project has been funded to run for three years with annual reviews. Some money has come from Association AIDS NC and the remainder from the French Government.