Bathabile Nyathi: Passion Should Be the Driving Force

Bathabile Nyathi
I was born in Gwanda in Matabeleland South, Zimbabwe. I did not complete my secondary education and started sex work at the age of 14 due to poverty and peer pressure. As a young woman who was selling sex I had no skills for negotiating condom use. I also faced stigma and discrimination among communities, family and hospitals. I was harassed by the police physically and sexually. I later joined Sisters with a Voice clinic, which is part of the Centre for Sexual Health & HIV/AIDS Research (CeSHHAR), Zimbabwe. I am currently working as the Junior Coordinator at CeSHHAR representing sex workers. I have been a speaker at international conferences, sharing my experiences as a sex worker and also as a PrEP participant. I have travelled around Zimbabwe advocating for PrEP use among sex workers and recently attended ICASA that was held in Harare, Zimbabwe in December 2015.

What got you involved in the AIDS movement and particularly around PrEP advocacy?

Most of my family members had died from HIV/AIDS . In 2011 I participated in disseminating information about HIV/AIDS. Then with that experience I became a mentor in 2013 in a program called "sister to sister," where adolescent girls were taught about reproductive health and HIV/AIDS. As a sex worker, when CeSHHAR introduced the SAPPHIRe PrEP trial, I was keen to participate because I wanted to be one of the change agents in creating an HIV-free generation not only in my family but also the community at large.

What is an example of PrEP advocacy work you have engaged in recently? Is there a particular tactic or approach you have used in your advocacy that you can share?

From January to June in 2015 I have visited most of the sites where Sisters with a Voice clinic offer PrEP and shared my experience using PrEP and its benefits. What I do most of the time is to have one-on-one conversations with a sister about PrEP. Since sex workers are a sensitive group, I look at the environment and the mood of the place and the person as well. The most important factor is to be humble and also include myself as I am a sex worker as well.

From your perspective, what are the top priorities for PrEP advocacy to advance an accelerated, more equitable response to AIDS?

People should understand what PrEP is, its use and how it should work for it to be effective in creating an HIV-free generation. Also we need acceptance from the communities and also to understand their views and concerns about PrEP.

What concerns you about expanded PrEp use?

Issues of adherence are my major concern, also issues of accessibility. Will PrEP be easily accessed by anyone and everyone who wants to take it? Will it be affordable to the general population or will it only be affordable to the elite?

If you were speaking to a young advocate interested in HIV/AIDS advocacy, what would you advise her/him about how to be effective?

  • Passion should be the driving force
  • Get involved in HIV/AIDS activities in your community because they say "charity begins at home"
  • Be an example to the other youth and the community at large
  • Have respect and be a good communicator