Hookers abstain from STI cure

HARARE - Most Zimbabwean sex workers are not seeking medical treatment for sexually transmitted infections.

Aid workers also say only one in three female sex workers receive adequate HIV prevention and government was not doing much to help with the prevention and elimination of the pandemic.

Most of the sex workers are pushed into the trade because of extraordinary social and economic vulnerability.

Sex workers have accused health officials of being hostile and giving lower priority to their health needs. 

One professional commercial sex worker, gave an insight into what happens on the streets at night and how they try to prevent HIV in their line of work.

Nancy, a sex worker based along Third Street in Harare, said she has never been to a doctor and she doubts she ever will.

“I was once happily married and stayed in the suburbs with my husband till he died in 1998,” she said.

“I don’t have any qualifications and I need to provide for my family. I don’t go to clinic because the services you get there make you feel worse than the job which at least brings in money.

Treatment will just slow me down, so I am better without. As for my clients there is nothing without risk. I don’t have to worry about catching anything.”

Shupikai, another sex worker, said those clients who request sex without condoms pay more.

“HIV is the least of my concerns out on these streets, after all we all die don’t we?” she said.

“A lot of these organisations approach us wanting to give alternative jobs but there is a difference between working hard and doing what you love and what you are good at for a living. If I don’t do this, who will? Let’s face it, traffic on the streets shows there is demand.”

Some said the busiest time in Harare’s Third Street was during daytime while others said they were not willing to “waste time” with the news crew saying interviews did not bring in money.

Sex workers reported that they worked an average of six nights a week, averaged four clients a night. And with the liquidity crisis, they are charging as low as $3 to 5 per “short time” session and as low as $7 to 10 per night but can go up to $50 on a good day.

Fifteen percent of Zimbabweans are HIV-positive, according to the 2010-11 Zimbabwe Demographic and Health Survey.

More women and men are getting tested for HIV. One in three women and one in five men were tested for HIV and received their test results. However, more men die from HIV annually.

Activists have raised concerns over the fact that these statistics do not include commercial sex workers, people living with disabilities, gay and lesbian communities and those in prisons.

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