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Nurith Aizenman. Graham Smith. Abu Bakarr Koroma is part of a condom handout program to prevent HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases. These days, he can't even give 'em away.
Wedding dress rentals are way down. Condoms are no longer a hot item. And prostitutes are having trouble finding customers.
With at least new cases a week in Sierra Leone, the virus is altering practically every aspect of life. And life, well, life includes love and sex. Even illicit sex. So we wanted to find out how the epidemic has impacted these more We start with the prostitutes who ply their trade on Lumley Beach road — an oceanside strip in one of Freetown's tourist neighborhoods.
On a recent night the sex market is in full swing. Men cruise by in cars and pickups. Women in tight tops and miniskirts vie for their attention by hissing — the local version of "Hey, you! Technically prostitution is illegal in Sierra Leone, but it's widely tolerated. These days, however, customers are scarce. Ebola's toll on the economy has put a stop to that. There's also more competition on the streets.
Before Ebola hit, some prostitutes tell us, they had other jobs. Tina worked as a waitress and a maid. A woman nearby who seems a bit tipsy — she calls herself Mary — adds that a lot of men are afraid prostitutes might have Ebola. Then there's the haggling. It's worse than ever. A younger woman leaning against a white sedan says that just this night, a Lebanese man tried to lowball her.