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Prostitutes flock to South Africa ahead of World Cup 2010

As with the 2006 World Cup in Germany, a rampant sex trade is of concern to human rights groups ahead of the World Cup 2010 in South Africa, which kicks off next month. Prostitutes, many from impoverished Zimbabwe, are arriving to cash in on an estimated 500,000 visiting fans.

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The Catholic Church, according to one media report, is telling its parishoners to be on the watch for immigrant women in South Africa who may have been forced into the sex trade. "With these people, the Catholic volunteers try to establish dialogue and help them to emerge from the nightmare that they have been thrown into by criminals. Our first task is opening our doors to these people,” said Fr. Chris Townsend, a spokesman of theBishop's Conference of South Africa, Botswana, and Swaziland (SACBC).

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Raising HIV/AIDS awareness

Fear that the World Cup could bring an increase in prostitution and sex trafficking is also raising concerns of spread of disease. In South Africa, an estimated 5.7 million people are diagnosed with HIV. An estimated 1,000 people die from AIDS-related diseases each day, according to the African Medical and Research Foundation (AMREF).

Groups are calling for prostitutes to insist on using condoms.

“The AIDS Consortium is encouraging all entities that have the capacity to supply condoms to as many places as possible to do so and with other organizations who do similar work," says Rhulani Lehloka, communications manager for The Aids Consortium, South Africa's leading non-governmental organization that deals with HIV/AIDS.

The South African government appears to support the condom drive. While President Jacob Zuma – a polygamist and father of 20 children – has in the past expressed disdain for condoms, in April his government announced a campaign to distribute some 1.5 billion this year.

Joyce Dube, executive director of the Southern African Women’s Institute on Migration Affairs in Johannesburg, says that condom use is already high among Zimbabwean prostitutes, who charge higher fees for men who do not want to use a condom.

(Savious Kwinika is director of the Center for African Journalists news agency in Johannesburg. The Monitor’s Scott Baldauf contributed to this story.)

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