THE National Aids Council (NAC) is in the process of setting up 30 Static Health Sites around the country and boarder posts which will attend to Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) of sex workers (SWs) amidst indications that HIV prevalence amongst sex workers continues to rise nationally.
By Michael Gwarisa
In an interview with HealthTimes on the sidelines of a Zimbabwe Aids Network (ZAN) organised breakfast meeting between Civil Society and the Business Sector on sustainable economic options and livelihoods for Key Populations (SWs and Prisoners), NAC Key Populations Coordinator, Jerry Manyika said even though the national HIV prevalence was showing positives, it remained high in sex workers with latest statistics indicating that it stands at plus or minus 60 percent against a 14 percent national prevalence rate hence the need for a comprehensive approach to sex work.
“We will soon be setting up 30 Static Health sites around the country targeting sex workers in all the hot spots and areas we believe sex work is very high.
“The static centers will be situated at boarder posts mainly Chirundu, Beitbridge, Victoria Falls and also the major Highways, that is the Beitbridge Masvingo Highway, Plumtree highway. We will also be present in the major towns, Harare, Gweru, Bulawayo, Masvingo and all the towns. As for time frames, these centers will be effective by end of this month, (March) and we will be offering the whole SRHR package,” said Manyika.
A complete SRHR package compromises of HIV testing, Anti retro Viral Treatment (ART), Pre-Exposure Prophylaxes (PrEP), Post Exposure Prophylaxes and screening for various diseases. Manyika added that HIV was on the increase in young sex workers and those young people who were below the age of consent and engaged in sex work were treated as key populations and needed extra attention regards SRHR services.
“Since 2005, national HIV prevalence has been going down, even going forward, we project that HIV prevalence will continue to fall and that is a positive for our efforts. However, it is not the case with female sex workers, we see that the prevalence is always going up and there is need to scale up SRHR services countrywide.
“We are scaling up efforts along these busy centers and corridors for the aim of reducing the pandemic.”
In Zimbabwe, the burden of HIV among FSW is exceedingly high, at over 50% . The Centre for Sexual Health, HIV and AIDS Research (CeSHHAR) has conducted multiple respondent-driven sampling (RDS) surveys among self-identified sex workers, and has measured rates of reported police harassment and abuse, with up to 20% FSW reporting violence from the police in the past year.
Meanwhile, Econet Wireless through its various projects has invited Sex workers and all Key populations who want to reform and make a living out of more formal means to approach them for possible business deals.
Speaking at the same event, Econet Wireless Account Executive, Fortune Mtetwa said through their Ecocash, Ecosure and Kwese initiatives, they were open to partnerships with key populations who want to work as agents and earn money through more decent means.
“We have various programs that can benefit key populations, we have the Ecosure Funeral Cover where KPs can work in their individual capacities as agents and make good money. It is a funeral cover that even individuals can join as families or individuals, KPs are also welcome to join.”