Haiti:"Other Choice" and "Back to School" programs give women in prostitution new options (February 2006)

The Emergency Plan supports a growing range of programs and interventions in its fight against HIV/AIDS in Haiti. One of these programs, the Lakay Social Clubs, supports HIV/AIDS prevention services for commercial sex workers by offering income-generation and educational alternatives to prostitution. The Lakay project has two main objectives: reducing the incidence of sexually transmitted infections and HIV/AIDS among women in prostitution and their clients, and helping these women to abandon the sex trade.

To address the second objective, the "Other Choice" program provides commercial sex workers with socio-economic alternatives to prostitution. The program offers the women training courses in subjects such as cooking, sewing, computer skills, arts and cosmetology. With these new skills, the program assists women to find new jobs and abandon the sex trade. Former commercial sex workers are integrated into the "Other Choice" program as peer trainers, further enhancing the program's ability to reach other women who are still involved in prostitution.

Through September 2005, the Other Choice program trained more than 1,400 women, many of whom have partially or fully removed themselves from prostitution. In the coming year, PEPFAR will support evaluation of this and similar programs to determine the effectiveness of the training in helping women to leave prostitution.

The Other Choice program will also be extended to include a new strategy called "Back to School." This initiative will target young women who, often due to economic challenges at home, have abandoned school to enter prostitution. The program will support the reintegration of these adolescents into schools, and work to reduce the school-children-by-day/commercial sex worker-by-night phenomenon that has recently developed in many Haitian cities.

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