The number of teenagers engaged in sex work in the Cape Coast Metropolis is steadily increasing.
This came to light when a group of media personnel attended a three-day media training in HIV and AIDS reporting and interacted with a group of female sex workers (FSWs) in Cape Coast.
The sex workers also serve as peer educators who work with the West Africa Project to Combat AIDS and sexually transmitted infections (WAPCAS), an international non-governmental organisation, to prevent HIV transmission among sex workers in the metropolis.
WAPCAS spearheads efforts at controlling HIV and AIDS, as well as other STIs among the Most AT Risk Populations (MARPs), including FSWs. One of their strategies is to use peer educators to reach their targets with services and education on HIV prevention.
According to one of the peer educators who wants to be identified only by her first name Florence, girls as young as 14-19 years form approximately 80 per cent of the FSW population in Cape Coast.
She said many of the young girls went into the sex trade because of lack of parental care while others did it for the sake of having fun.
Others, according to Florence, are persuaded into the trade through pressure from friends while the rest are in for material gains.
Another peer educator, Miss Akua Mansa, noted that stigmatisation of the female sex worker had led to a situation where FSWs had become a major source of HIV infection among the general population.
"It is wrong for society to stigmatise sex workers when in reality there are many others who also take on multiple sexual partners for personal gains but are not tagged as sex workers by society," said Miss Mansa.
She said due to stigmatisation, FSWs felt uneasy to publicly access services to prevent HIV transmission and "so as peer educators and colleagues who understand their situation, we work to reach them with services and HIV prevention education."
Miss Mansa said their activities included providing the FSWs with condoms (which they are encouraged to use with every client), gels for lubrication to avoid bruises and assisting them to get treatment for their STIs, including anti-retrovital therapy for those living with HIV.