Centre for Sexual Health, HIV and Aids Research (CeSHHAR) says more than 57% of female sex workers in the country’s 22 hotspot areas are HIV positive.
The revelations follow another study by the National Aids Council (Nac), Health and Child Care ministry and Zimbabwe Civil Liberties and Drug Network, which stated that Harare is the biggest red-light district with a high rate of sex workers at 36,07%.
Indications by the Zimbabwe National Statistics Agency are that women constitute the biggest number of unemployed people in the country at 59,6%.
Most women are now resorting to sex work to make ends meet.
Speaking yesterday on the sidelines of an HIV symposium organised by Nac, CeSHHAR statistician Sungai Chabata said the HIV prevalence rate was high among teenagers aged 16-19 years.
“HIV prevalence is high among sex workers in Zimbabwe, and it’s estimated at 57% and it rises with age. One of the studies that we have done demonstrated that HIV prevalence can be about 2% among 16-year-olds, and rises steeply to 22% among 19-year-olds, which is an indication of high incidence which is estimated to be ranging from 4% to 10%, which is rather five times more than in the general population,” Chabata said.
As a result, Chabata added that CeSHHAR has begun an education campaign, meant to enlighten sex workers on pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), and other means to help prevent HIV infections.
“We have started a programme that focuses on sex workers. We have people going around giving out the message of PrEP and other means. We conduct community mobilisation meetings and night outreaches.”
Chabata called for HIV targeted interventions, to help reduce the prevalence of HIV in the hotspot areas.
“If we know most of the problems faced by sex workers, then we can be able to come up with interventions. The main problem faced by sex workers now is poverty and financial strains,” Chabata said.
Data from the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/Aids shows that around 5 500 young women aged between 15 and 24 globally, are being infected with HIV weekly.