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Sidi Abdallah...

ceci est un mail brut qu'un ami vivant du coté de biled echaam et travaillant sur le sida a écrit sur sa visite en Tunisie en Aout dernier...

the likes of which i have never seen (and people in my type of job are paid to see), not even in canicular bangkok, nor amsterdam (at least in amsterdam, a bit more chilly, there are red lace shawls and lengerie) along the charming, sweltering, narrow winding streets of tunis' old city, arches above, blue painted window panes to the side, air filled with the sound of Koran, stench of rubbish, fried late dinners, a spotted cat dashing uneven puddled bricks between doorways, white paint peeling off the walls, each step brings a new smell, a different sound, another image.

From virtual emptiness, as alleyways narrow, they become more populated. young men, short, tall, in traditional dress or in jeans, alone, pairs> holding hands, or in groups, gawking at the unseen sight, the image of images, white neon light coloured with bursts of red, or pink, or blue, and as if from a bad movie: women in doorways, in panties and bras, in the half instances they have bras. beautiful building architecture (tiles, ceramic images, arches, stairs, doorways, shadows), contrasting with the Rubens-ian architecture of meat for sale. this is the middle east??? almost residence of the league of arab states? palestinian hq in the 80? older empty eyes gazing in the distance, eager eyes with invitations to spend time together, cigarete smoke rising to ceilings and heavens, perhaps an indication of consumed life....., throughout, grandmotherly persons standing guard to doorways, appearing as reception clerks...... inviting you, organizing things, commanding, embarrasing ...... generally, i do not like suks (= market, crowded, crampt, mercantile). this is perhaps my least favorite suk....

having overcome the initial shock after several dizzying and aweing minutes, elevating my knee level dropped jaw, time for a quickie with my friend, who can ask questions in tunisian, as yours truly is limited to rwandan french - les francais du lac, me les grande lac, and not all of our civil servants speak french) - the regular rate is 7 tunisian dinars (approx. $5 US), but for me, a> special rate: 20 TuD. perhaps because there is more of me to love than> your average tunisian, size wise at least, although looking at the rubens-ian persona around, for once i felt slim. supposedly none of the workers were under 18, which was quite obvious, some appeared close to retirement. - the 2 over 18 years old women we quickly interviewed for our quickie, had children, so if one of our 4 mtsp hiv priorities is the protection of> orphans and vulnerable children, perhaps now is a good time to protect the children from becoming orphans, especially as these workers / civil servants should be single mothers/parents? * yes, these women are tunisian civil servants (talk about good governance! would be amazing to speak to their labour union! Urban Johnson did emphasize the need to legalize and unionize sex work! in tunisia at least we are 50% ahead of the game, with legal sex work. proletariats of the world unite!), legal and registered, approx 400 in tunis, and 1,000 nationwide, in approx 10 legal establishments / gov. institutions / 1 such institution per several governorates.

* yes, they receive monthly checkups for sexually transmitted diseases, but> this is POST FACTO. u la la mademoiselle, yu have zee many sexual kontakts zee day, you do not use zee condoms during zee sex, surprise! voilla! you have zee disease. malesh! take zee pills and call in zee morning...... * yes, in a survey of these civil servants (nations rise and fall> depending on buraucracies ....), only 1 was found to have HIV, so what's the problem? no problem! no hiv! lots of unsafe sex, however no problem for zee hiv! next issue! BUT * the price for sex with and without a condom is the same, $5, actually> condoms are not used.

(condom? what's that? oh those Egyptian sheep intestine things from the time of the pharaoes! sure, we know sheep. great for khebab!) * last year there were 1 million algerian and 1 million libyan tourists. perhaps not all are visiting tunisia soley for the history, scenery, german beer brew, great wine, fish? calimari? pristine beaches? architecture? * we are trying very hard to reach young people who may have this or that risk behavior, who we suspect are vulnerable to this or that, possibly leading to HIV.

BUT we have something under our very eyes, clearly risk, clearly hiv, clearly touching mothers and chidlren and young people, with no one doing anything, am i missing something? queleque choz? am i again wrong? this would really be so easy, for it is one of the few cases in MENA (middle east and north africa) where we have concentrated easy to reach brothel based sex work versus very difficult to reach dispersed freelancers perhaps a less quickie rapid assessment, to ascertain implication/impact on mothers and children and young people?


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