HIV SELF-TESTING : FREE TO KNOW YOUR STATUS
Tina, in the backroom of a bar, in Bamako. Jean-Claude Frisque / Solthis

Tina announces she is 35 years old, but her body and face inspire 15 more. A Nigerian national, she left her country with her pimp to work in Côte d’Ivoire. As a sex worker, she has had some success. “So he decided to take me to Europe,” she explains. But the journey stops in Mauritania. “My pimp then asked me to go to Mali to prostitute myself to finance the trip. “Here she is in Bamako, a city she didn’t know, without a landmark, without a family. Her destiny changed the day she met the late Dr. SIDIBE Garangué SOUKO in 2000. Founder and Executive Director of the NGO SOUTOURA, the late Dr. SIDIBE Garangué SOUKO suggested that she become a peer educator, particularly for Nigerian sex workers, and more generally English-speaking sex workers and their boyfriends. “My life has changed, she took me off the street,” she says, sitting on a concrete bench in the back room of a bar on one of the busiest avenues in Bamako, Mali. Today, Tina has become the surrogate “mother” for girls who have followed the same path as her. Dr. KEITA Aminata Saran SIDIBE, who took over from the founder of SOUTOURA, who died in July 2019, testifies to Tina’s investment: “She is there every day, every time. Even when the NGO encounters financial difficulties and has to reduce its activities, she continues to do so on a voluntary basis. »

Tina AGBONAVBARE, or Momy or Anty, as she is known to English-speaking sex workers, plays a very important role in SOUTOURA where she has worked her way up through the ranks as a community worker, from peer educator to coordinator. In 2005, she was awarded the prize for best community worker in the STI, HIV and AIDS program of the PSI Mali and Groupe Pivot Santé Population consortium, funded by USAID. Sista Tina is very helpful to women in prostitution through the provision of service packages: awareness raising, traditional testing and self-testing, distribution of condoms and lubricant gels, referral of people who test positive for HIV to treatment and follow-up until the viral load is eliminated. Her support also extends beyond the health sector, since she accompanies girls in their relations with the police, the embassy of their country of origin and the opening of bank accounts.

The late Dr Sidibé Garangué Souko, Founder of Soutoura

In the establishment, there are about forty of them sailing between the bar and the back room, where there are rooms from 5 to 6 square meters that they share at 3, their privacy being as much as possible preserved by curtains. Day and night, they accompany the men who select them, for quick passes paid at best 2,000 FCFA (3 euros). “On Friday and Saturday nights, they each do up to 30 passes,” explains Dr. KEITA Aminata Saran SIDIBE. Tina is concerned for “her daughters”, their health, mental and physical. “I had the chance to meet help, I try to give it back, to get these girls off the street, and if not to support them. “Tina, who knows her HIV status but keeps it secret, encourages girls to test for it. On this awareness day at the bar, the theme is the HIV self-test. Because if they regularly test themselves at the SOUTOURA Clinic, this complementary screening strategy allows them to offer screening to their boyfriends as they call them, their regular partner. “Above all, we want them to stay healthy,” they explain. The HIV self-test is fairly well accepted by these men, “because they can do it discreetly at home, without having to reveal that they are dating a sex worker.” Tina has all the girls’ confidence. She evolves in the bar as a caring mother, attentive to improving as much as possible a very difficult daily life. Helping these young girls is the raison d’être of Tina, who today calls herself “happy” and eternally grateful to the late Dr. SIDIBE Garangué SOUKO.

Sista Tina

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