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Sex workers are among the most hidden, least understood and most marginalised people in South Africa.
They are regularly not paid for services rendered, with their objections frequently leading to violence.Interviews with sex workers at identified hotspots were used to estimate the numbers and genders of sex workers working in each.Estimates provided in the literature were combined with enumeration exercise results to define assumptions that could be applied to a national extrapolation.A working estimate was reached of between 131,000 and 182,000 sex worker in South Africa, or between 0.76 and 1 % of the adult female population.The success of the exercise depended on integral involvement of sex worker peer educators and strong ethical considerations.].Although recognized as a vulnerable population, there is no national population size estimate for sex workers in South Africa.
A rapid sex worker enumeration exercise was undertaken in twelve locations across the country based on principles of participatory mapping and Wisdom of the Crowd.Sites with a range of characteristics were selected, focusing on level of urbanisation, trucking, mining and borders.At each site, sex worker focus groups mapped local hotspots.They are likely to be left at the roadside a distance from their homes.Sex workers also describe being publicly identified and insulted by health workers, and are less likely to seek HIV and sexually transmitted infections (STI) services where their status, profession and health conditions are a source of verbal abuse.In the most severe settings, although not widespread in most parts of South Africa, sex workers may be subjugated to controllers through drug addiction, drug debt and force.