Desperation drives commercial sex workers back to “profession”

by Robert Tapfumaneyi | HIV/AIDS|Zimbabwe Charity, INC (HAZ)

Some former commercial sex workers who are HIV-positive have resorted back to their old profession as hunger and poverty, among other economic hardships, hit them hard.

The commercial sex workers who had stopped the trade are now going back as they need money to buy food and medications, and to pay their rent and children’s school fees.

Yvonne Nzenza, who has been living positively with HIV for the past decade or so said she now has no choice but to resort to prostitution again as she can no longer afford to buy anti-retroviral drugs (ARVs) and to pay for other basic needs.

“As someone living with HIV and AIDS, I have a number of problems, chief among them being the need for money to buy anti-retroviral drugs and food.”

She added; “Commercial sex workers who had stopped going to bars are now going back. Others are also forced to have unprotected sex because clients offer more money ranging from US$20 to US$30 for unprotected sex, compared to the US$5 for protected sex. They don’t have an option because they need to pay rent and buy food.”

Community leader for Ward Four in Epworth, Mr. Andrew Manene said the withdrawal of some non-governmental organisations that were supplying residents with ARVs has affected people living positively in this area.

“Where can they get food considering that they are not working? People on ART require food and the fact that they are not fully employed, their best option is to go back into prostitution,” Manene said.

Speaking at the sidelines of the forum Padare/Enkundleni/Men’s Forum, programme officer Nakai Nengomasha, said the public meetings were a build-up of programmes they have already been conducting.

“We have community dialogues that are taking place in every province as I speak, this is a quest and a programme that is aiming at raising awareness and coming up with community responses to issues surrounding gender based violence particularly on women, and raising awareness on sexual reproductive health and rights of women and girls,” Nengomasha said.

The withdrawal of organisations such as MSF and the handing over of some of the ART programmes to government has affected a lot of people living positively in and around the country.

Just recently hundreds of people living with HIV and AIDS thronged the National AIDS Council (NAC) offices accusing the organization of abusing funds from the AIDS Levy, which has resulted in an acute shortage of anti-retroviral drugs at government institutions.

At least 510 000 people are on ART programmes in Zimbabwe, with about 469 000 of these being adults while 41 000 are children.

According to the 2010-11 Zimbabwe Demographic and Health Survey (ZDHS), there has been a slight decrease in Zimbabwe’s HIV prevalence since 2005-06.
“15% of Zimbabwean adults are HIV-positive compared with 18 % in the 2005-06,” reads part of the report.

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  1. “The withdrawal of organisations such as MSF and the handing over of some of the ART programmes to government has affected a lot of people living positively in and around the country.”
    This indicates that something is not working in the way the healthcare system is structured currently. The government makes an undertaking to take over programmes, as well as the patients benefiting from those programmes. How is it that some people feel obliged to buy their own ARVs when government provides for free? Does the public sector have enough ARVs for all those in need? How are the public facility healthcare worker attitudes towards sex-workers or former sex-workers. This situation is not acceptable. It creates the danger of non-adherence when one has run short of cash, and high risk of developing resistance.

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