If the Prime Minister “says its rubbish, then it must be rubbish...” says Minister of Health, Tuitama Dr Leao Talalelei Tuitama in response to Samoa Observer questions.
Last week Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi laughed at claims that poverty and hardship are to blame for the growing number of sex workers in Samoa.
He also attacked an unnamed newspaper over its coverage of the issue, describing the reporting as “rubbish.”
In response to the Prime Minister’s comment that a report issued by the Ministry of Health, as their Sixth Annual Report to UNAIDS was rubbish, Tuitama stated “You don't want me to say that the Prime Minister was wrong. You know he is the leader of our country; if he says it’s rubbish, it must be rubbish.”
As for his opinion, the Minister explained that he hasn’t “actually read the report yet.”
He explained that he’s seen the report, but he doesn’t know the details, and has not had time to dissect it.
“Give me some time to have a look at it and maybe we’ll have another session,” he told the Samoa Observer.
Last week during his weekly media programme, Tuilaepa was asked for a comment on the connection being made between hardship, poverty and sex work.
“If that is true then you shouldn’t find that in America, the wealthiest country in the world, yet there are a lot of women like that in America,” Tuilaepa said.
“That’s where it’s wrong; you can’t control this type of behaviour.” Tuilaepa then had a go at a “newspaper” which he did not name.
“I know the newspaper is trying hard,” he said laughing.
“It doesn’t matter how far off the issue is, they always try to pull it towards my doorstep. They blame me as the reason for everything. “That’s why I hardly read their rubbish, I try to free my mind day after day, to avoid being dragged into issues.”
According to the Multi-country Mapping and Behavioural study of 2016, quoted by the Ministry of Health in their sixth annual report to UNAIDS, they found that there are an estimated 400 female sex workers in Samoa.
The report reads, “Most women are doing sex work for economic reasons.”
“Payment varies considerably from $50 to $200 tala.
“These women have a wide range of clients, including local and foreign men and 58.3% had children and the majority had no other employment.”
The study was the work of the U.N.D.P, U.N.I.C.E.F and the University of New South Wales which called for urgently needed reforms in Pacific island countries to adequately address HIV and sexually transmitted infections (S.T.I.’s) among vulnerable populations. Samoa was among nine countries the Study covered.
According to the report, the number of partners some of the women have had in the last 12 months was 10.
Nine were clients.
“Only 33% of the participants used a condom on the last occasion of vaginal intercourse with a client; a majority were inconsistent condom users with clients in the last 12 months,” the report reads.
“Condom use with casual non- paying partners was low; 50% used a condom on the last occasion.”
The report further says that a minority of the women drank alcohol and their HIV knowledge was moderate.
“None of the women had accessed a sexual health service in the last 12 months, although 60% had been given condoms in that period.
“None had been tested for HIV in the previous 12 months.
“There is therefore a need for extensive condom programming and health education outreach to this group.
“Interventions should also seek to provide female sex workers with housing, sanitation, and economic services to support their participation in prevention interventions.”