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Bolivian sex workers using raincoats to keep 'safe'

Sex workers in the Bolivian capital La Paz are finding safe ways to get back to work Image copyright Gaston Brito

Many sex workers in Bolivia say they'll return to work using gloves, bleach and see-through raincoats.

They say these recommendations - suggested by the Organisation of Night Workers of Bolivia (OTN-B) - will help keep everyone safe.

Prostitution in the South American country is legal and regulated in licensed brothels.

Restrictions have slightly eased after an early lockdown in March.

But some work - including sex work - is still restricted during the day and a night-time curfew remains in place.

Vanesa is a single mother of two children and says she needs to work to fund her studies.

"Our clients respect the issue of safety, that we are taking these measures for our security, but also for theirs," she says.

Another worker, Antonieta, says she is using a paper face mask, plastic visor, gloves and a raincoat.

She also sprays a bleach solution on the pole she uses to dance for clients at her brothel.

"The biosecurity suit will allow us to work and protect ourselves."

Image copyright Gaston Brito
Image caption Workers are wearing see through raincoats, gloves and masks recommended by the Organisation of Night Workers of Bolivia

The OTN-B met with the health ministry last month to present a 30-page manual giving guidance to women on how to keep safe.

Bolivia has around 50,000 confirmed coronavirus cases and 1,898 deaths to date.

Last week, the country's interim president Jeanine Anez Chavez tweeted she had tested positive for Covid-19.

But there are concerns that not enough testing is being done in Bolivia which is one of the region's poorest nations.

Data shows it is the country with fewest tests per million population.

It's incomparable to neighbour Brazil which has been hugely impacted, with 1.97 million people affected and more than 75,000 deaths.

Image copyright Gaston Brito
Image caption Staff at a licensed brothel in La Paz say they are cleaning everything regularly to keep workers and clients safe

Lily Cortes who is a representative of Bolivia's sex workers union, says it's a difficult time for everyone but the restrictions are putting women at huge risk.

"We are also part of Bolivian society, we are sex workers, women, aunts and grandmothers that also have to worry about our work hours.

"Unfortunately the sex workers will go out to work the streets and the result will be worse."

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