MEN continue to engage in risky behaviour with some insisting on unprotected sex with commercial sex workers, it has emerged.
BY DALPHINE TAGWIREYI
This startling information was revealed to Sisters with a Voice, a programme pioneered by the Centre for Sexual Health, HIV and Aids Research (CeSHHAR). The programme is aimed at reducing HIV infection among sex workers as well as HIV transmission to their clients and improving the rights of sex workers.
Banenkosi Khumalo (40) an HIV-positive sex worker based in Gwanda told StandardCommunity that most of her clients were young gold panners who insist on having unprotected sex. She said the youngsters used to shun her for refusing to indulge in unprotected sex as she knew her HIV status.
But Khumalo said with sex work being her only source of survival, she eventually gave in due to the lure of the United States dollar and South African Rand.
“When the young gold panners come for sexual services, they usually tell me that I look fresh hence I cannot be HIV-positive,” she said.
“It pains me because I am slowly killing the young generation at the same time I need the money to survive.”
A divorcee with four children, Khumalo narrated how she ended up joining the oldest profession in the world. She is now hooked to drugs and alcohol.
Khumalo said her ex-husband used to teach and reside in South Africa. He came back to Zimbabwe in 2006 having fallen sick after contracting HIV. On returning home, he stayed with his parents, with his mother caring for him.
But in 2007, Khumalo said her in-laws dumped their son at her place. She was also diagnosed with the virus that causes Aids. Khumalo could not bear such news and filed for divorce in 2008 and left her matrimonial home to start a new life as a sex worker.
“Sex should be an enjoyable act but I no longer enjoy it because I am using my ‘private part’ to survive,” she said. “I need liquor [Dutch] courage to engage with clients who seek my services, no wonder I am drunk now yet it is only midday.”
With Zimbabwe’s HIV prevalence rate standing at 13,7%, sex workers are among the highly affected risk groups.
Sex work programme coordinator for CeSHHAR, Sibongile Mtetwa said that sex workers were less likely to access HIV prevention and treatment services.
She said under the Sisters with a Voice programme, sex workers were given access to health services when they contracted STIs. They also get contraception and other related health services.
Vimbai Mdege from National AIDS Council (NAC) said there was need to scale up and scale out interventions that target men in different settings, including workplaces, border posts and along highways so that condom use among other messages, is clearly understood.
“Men have an upper hand in the decision to use or not to use a condom. There is need for more information on STIs, their symptoms and linkage to HIV as well as scaling up and broadening condom promotion and distribution”, she said.