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Moroccan study finds prostitutes lacking AIDS awareness

By Imrane Binoual in Casablanca and Sarah Touahri in Rabat for Magharebia—27/11/08

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A groundbreaking study published in mid-November by the Morocco section of the Pan-African Organisation for the Fight Against AIDS (OPALS) focused on an activity that is a major source of sexually transmitted diseases – prostitution.

"Prostitution is closely linked with the economic, social and mental situation of those who are involved in it," the November 13th report said.

With a headquarters in Rabat and 16 branches across the Kingdom, OPALS is dedicated to fighting AIDS in three areas: prevention, community action and medical care, including gynecological services and free, anonymous screening.

To assess the magnitude of the problem in Morocco, OPALS researchers ventured into undocumented territory for the new study. More sex workers were interviewed than in any previous survey on sexual diseases, and the organisation conducted research in mid-Atlas towns such as El Hajeb, Azrou, Imouzzer and Khenifra, which had never before been studied in this way.

OPALS' findings pointed to one main conclusion: that a new awareness-raising strategy must be initiated to prevent the spread of AIDS.

Most sex workers in the country lack basic knowledge of how to prevent AIDS and other sexually-transmitted diseases (STDs), the study found, noting that prostitutes and their clients often refuse to use condoms. Of 500 sex workers surveyed, 43.5% did not use protection during intercourse.

Some 30% of the prostitutes who participated in the study had also never been to school.

"What we’re finding is that there is ignorance of AIDS, no culture of prevention and little use of condoms," said OPAL Morocco President Nadia Bezzad.

The aim of the survey was to improve prevention, such as condom-usage and medical testing in order to curb health risks related to STDs, explained Professor Azzouz Ettounsi, a specialist in psycho-sociology who headed the study team.

Prevention efforts are undermined, however, by the lack of information about prostitution and its link to the spread of diseases in Morocco.

Prostitution is illegal and punishable by prison in Morocco. But some women still do it for financial reasons.

"It’s very difficult to get a clear idea of the national picture with regard to prostitution", Ettounsi said, "in particular because of its clandestine and illegal nature."

"It is also a diverse profession," he added. "While some prostitutes acknowledge that they are sex workers, there are also some who refuse to admit that they belong to the profession."

Some 13% of the surveyed prostitutes identified themselves as virgins who do not engage in complete intercourse. For that reason, they told researchers, they do not need to take precautions. They are mistakenly convinced that STDs and AIDS are only transmitted through penetrative intercourse.

"The survey showed us that misconceptions with regard to AIDS sufferers are rife," Bezzad confirmed. "The clear conclusion is that our message about AIDS is not getting through."

"We must not focus our efforts to combat AIDS solely on the use of condoms," she continued. "That is not working. We need to take all factors into account. Education is also very important, much more so than medicine. We must also look at the role of schools and the fight against illiteracy and poverty. "

One way to help sex workers is to provide them with a legal source of income, said Moha Ouali Arifi, president of the Social Association for the Development of Tighssaline.

The local initiative, Arifi explained, helps women of all backgrounds find job opportunities, regardless of their education level.

The Tighssaline association is also working to raise awareness among sex workers to prevent the spread of sexually transmitted diseases, especially AIDS.

"We firmly believe that human beings are valuable inside," she said. "We give women the training they need to get involved in sustainable development."

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  1. Anonymous thumb

    نعيمة 2015-1-10

    Is there any organizations working with the prostitues of Morocco? In case of helping them continue their work safely or in terms of helping them out of it. If so, what are the names of the organizations? I'm doing a paper on the subject and that's the reason behind my curiosity. Best regards.


  2. Anonymous thumb

    VIH/SIDA 2011-2-27

    There is some misunderstanding about what encourages prostitution and about what reduces HIV infection. Legalising prostitution does not encourage prostitution. There are a number countries in the world that have legalised prostitution so that the government can regulate it. By legalising prostitution, these governments guarantee that the prostitutes are regularly tested for HIV and that the use of a condom is mandatory. However, the cultures in these countries just like the culture in Morocco frown upon prostitution, which means that it is still socially shameful to be a prostitute and there is no real motivation to become a prostitute besides poverty or a history of psychological abuse that lead the women in these countries to become prostitutes. Also, this is a very inexpensive solution for the government, because testing for HIV has become very inexpensive and verifying that prostitutes are using condoms is very easy. Of course, putting an end to the economic conditions that drive women to become prostitutes is necessary, but this solution is far off and it is impossible to ever fully put an end to prostitution. So we need educate not only prostitutes, but also everyone on how to prevent the transmission of HIV and the government needs to provide condoms for free to the population (especially the prostitutes) and the government needs to regulate prostitution. As good Muslims, our goal should be to save human lives to the best of our ability.


  3. Anonymous thumb

    شيماء 2009-10-30

    Salam alikum. Thank you for your information. Please guide me to the address of “Association to fight AIDS and Sexually Transmitted Diseases”. May God reward you with good. Thank you.


  4. Anonymous thumb

    صالح مجدول القاديري 2009-9-6

    In the name of God the Beneficent the Merciful. To the sister Naima. I have just said the truth. You know that most Moroccan girls and the majority of them have come from rural areas are not education and don't have university or technical diplomas. They come to big cities to work in any job. The important for them is to pay the rental of the room which they share with other girls in the same condition. The landlord imposes on them rental per bed. One single room can hold five beds. He also forbids them from bringing anyone to the house. They are also committed to enter the room before 8 p.m. in this life which is similar to African prisons, what can this girl do amidst such miserable conditions? She will just look for any job to protect her from the sourness of dogs' life. Since prostitution is spread all over the world, since its practice is forbidden by law (practice of prostitution or inciting to depravity...), since prostitution is the oldest profession practiced by women to fight poverty, since there are young men, men, young girls and women who practice prostitution to have financial resources to cover their needs, for example there are bars and restaurants selling alcohol even if the organizing law says that it should not be sold to Muslims, (we build a bordello with the specificities and under the supervision of a medical committee of the competent department. We institute a legal article in which we say that prostitution is banned for Muslims. We let making a living and pleasure to those who have needs who used to find it wherever they go. We will also fight the spread of AIDS and associated sexual diseases). I am saying the right and God is witness. We must see with our eyes, listen with our ears and understand with our hearts. This my opinion and God knows better.


  5. Anonymous thumb

    Naima 2009-8-13

    My God, this breaks your heart seeing Morocco, a Muslim country, like this!!! You know, Morocco has a bad reputation abroad!!! Hi Mr صالح مجدول القاديري- Do not forget that Morocco is a Muslim country. By creating private establishments that sell pleasure, you are encouraging prostitution in Morocco. There are no other solutions for these poor women. Why not create small business where these women could earn their living honestly and try to clean up Morocco completely?


  6. Anonymous thumb

    GHITA 2009-3-1

    The condom is always needed it needs it can be the client all the money.


  7. Anonymous thumb

    amine 2008-12-31

    Thank you.


  8. Anonymous thumb

    Ego 2008-12-8

    “Sex workers”!? What a nice euphemism!!! Come on! Come on, let us call a spade a spade! This is called prostitution, which is a social ill and in itself a source of STDs, another euphemism for sexually transmitted diseases. These STDs are what the poor women, left to the wayside by our societies, use to get revenge on us for the outrage their femininity is being put through. And, all the worse for those sharks who rub it in, both literally and figuratively! With regards to the ban imposed on prostitution, what have they done themselves and what have our allegedly “Muslim” societies done for the benefit of these poor women to save them from this curse? Nothing! Zilch!


  9. Anonymous thumb

    Chaz D 2008-12-6

    This is not the country that I lived in 30 years ago. What has happened to you Morocco? You are becoming like some of the countries in southeast asia. Stay true to yourself


  10. Anonymous thumb

    Eng. Hasan Al-Bahkali 2008-12-5

    Awareness-raising and education are important. But in order to radically solve the problem, the causes of this depraved act should be sought. Poverty can be one of the factors which leads to this. So you should help them in order not to beg or follow the way of depravity which destabilises religion, society and nation. Engineer Hasan Al Bahkali.


  11. Anonymous thumb

    reality2speak 2008-12-2

    In my opinion , it is very impossible to save Morocco & the Moroccan society from illegal sex , prostitution drugs, unfairness , corruption , robberies , injustice ! Morocco should've been saved 50 years ago , & not by now , it's too late for Morocco ! Morocco is already done & finished ! no way to ring the bells ! morocco is already gone in smoke & 4ever & ever ! no more hope for morocco ! sincerely !


  12. Anonymous thumb

    صالح مجدول القاديري 2008-11-28

    The oldest profession in history is prostitution. It is a job like other jobs. A girl could practice it because her poor parents cannot provide for her what she needs to complete her studies. So she rents her body for anyone welling to buy pleasure. There are married woman who practice prostitution because the husband cannot provide a living for his sons. He might be dismissed from work for the slightest reasons. He finds himself totally unable to provide for is family. We also find high prostitution which is practiced by some dancers or singers under the pretext of openness and freedom. The singer or dancer who sings or dances quasi naked, then she finds many requests to visit his Excellency in his palace. She only has to call the owner of the business card and the driver comes in a luxurious car to take her to the place where she will find the lord and negotiate with him the amount of money she will receive for a song or dance in front of him. As to having sex with him, the request might reach millions in foreign exchange if the lady is from abroad, and there are many of them, in my modest opinion. Since we are in dear Morocco, we have granted names to girls who are born outside of marriage, we have authorised boys descending from an anonymous mother and an anonymous father to get a civil status booklet. We have opened services in our hospitals for abandoned kids. We have many associations defending women rights, defending man who beats his wife. We have encouraged her to go to the police station to complain about her husband and drive him to prison. Praise be to God, have a law called the family law which does not allow man to marry more than one woman. So man falls in love with a girl and they have sex. If she is pregnant, she will go to see a witch who would prescribe her some products to drop the fetus and endanger her life. She might also go to a private clinic to remove the fetus. Anyway, in my humble opinion, I think that private institutes to sell pleasure should be opened. They should be controlled by gynaecologists. Those who want to work in the institute must undergo tests so that we would ensure for sex workers a health free of any diseases for herself firstly and for her customer as well. The institute should be private and pay taxes. The prostitutes should receive a monthly salary and be registered at the social security fund. This is my opinion, forgive me.


  13. Anonymous thumb

    Anonyme/batna 2008-11-28

    Those who do not respect the laws of God will never respect the laws of poor Mr HIV-AIDS. They have my congratulations!


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