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Sex Worker Support Group Leader Regains Confidence

“The information from the program is useful. Now we see the advantage of having knowledge.”    
– Adom Abay, 24 years old

Adom Abay says she never would have become a commercial sex worker on her own.  Pressured by her friends and the prospects of making money quickly, she fell into the dangerous world of prostitution at just 17 years old.

Adom grew up in Axum, a small city in Northern Ethiopia.  In the tenth grade, she failed the national exam and dropped out of high school, so she traveled to the regional capital of Mekele with two friends to face their futures.

“I would never have dared to have sex for money on my own,” she explains.  “We started because it was easy, but every day afterwards, it became more and more difficult.”

Adom’s first customer soon became her boyfriend and then the father of her only child. The 18-year old mother turned her back on sex work.  However, when the relationship turned sour she returned to the sex industry, but decided to do so in her hometown.

She moved back to Axum and opened a local drink house in her father’s compound. She led a double life and he never learned what his daughter was doing.  She also employed two girls in the drink house to attract more customers.

In March 2011, an EngenderHealth outreach coordinator approached Adom and offered her training on HIV prevention and the chance to positively influence more local sex workers.  Enticed by the offer and the chance to do something new, she quit selling sex.

“I hated myself for being a sex worker. I closed the drink house and turned it into a small shop and restaurant,” she says.

Through the Most at-Risk Populations (MARPs) program, Adom became a peer-educator and recruited ten sex workers to join her social support group.  The women meet once a week to discuss health issues, strict condom use and their group savings plan.

“The information from the program is useful.  Now we see the advantage of having knowledge,” she says.

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