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You needed a lot of money to get a travel document - and it took two years.

I applied for it in 2006 and I got it in 2008." "When I came to South Africa, I was dropped in Musina," said Linda. I was wondering how I would find someone who wants a domestic worker.

I was sitting with my bag next to me, then this truck driver approached me." In a country where more than five million people are living with HIV, and sex workers account for one in five new HIV infections, public health workers say it is imperative that South Africans engage in a frank and honest conversation about sex work.

She takes out her passport and in a matter-of-fact voice explains, "This thing reminds me of my journey, from the time my husband died." Linda, who asked that her last name not be used, is a provincial media co-ordinator of Sisonke, the South African sex worker movement.She was one of a long list of speakers at South Africa's first ever, national symposium on sex work held in Johannesburg recently, which brought together officials from the South African National Aids Council, the Department of Health, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and non-government organizations, including the Sex Worker Education and Advocacy Taskforce (Sweat) and Sisonke.As Linda told her story, conference delegates sat in rapt silence.Occasional murmurs of empathy rippled through the room as she explained that although she had hoped to finish school and go to university, her family circumstances had prevented it."My father was a peasant farmer, he had two wives and we were 15 children," she said of growing up in Zimbabwe.

"He did not have enough money to send all of us to school.

My mother was the second wife, and so my brothers from the first wife were the ones to go to school. We had a fully equipped seven-room house in the city, but my husband's family wanted this for themselves.

I could only go up to Grade 9." At the age of 19, Linda married. Six years after their marriage he was sent on a peacekeeping mission to the Democratic Republic of Congo where he sustained severe head injuries in a plane crash, leading to his death. They said I should marry my husband's brother, because this was according to their culture and tradition." Linda was adamant that she was not married "to the whole family".

The only solution she saw was to leave Zimbabwe for South Africa where she could earn a living and avoid the pressure from her in-laws. "When my husband was still alive he used to say, 'I don't want you to work for the family. And I don't want you to have a travel document, you'll be here with the family and I will always come back to you.' "I had to go against his wishes to get this document," said Linda.

"So every time I look at it, I feel like I have broken his wish, as if I was betraying him, but there was nothing I could do because I wanted to support the family." The following year, Linda applied for a passport.

"At that time, things were very difficult in our country.