Home Zimbabwe News 45% s.e.x workers are HIV-positive

45% s.e.x workers are HIV-positive

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45% s.e.x workers are HIV-positive. S.e.x workers are part of key populations defined as groups who, due to specific higher-risk behaviour, are at increased risk of contracting or spreading HIV.

About 40 per cent of s.e.x workers in Zimbabwe are HIV-positive and have been subjected to some forms of stigma and discrimination which affects their health-seeking behaviour. According to Avert — an HIV and Aids data organisation — there are around 44 500 female s.e.x workers in Zimbabwe.

Key populations include young women, men who have s.e.x with men, prisoners and people who inject drugs.

“There are around 44 500 female s.e.x workers in Zimbabwe, around 40 percent of whom are living with HIV. This is concerning in an environment where s.e.x work is illegal, condoms are being confiscated and gender inequality makes condom negotiation difficult. Despite this, some progress is being made; just under half, 44 percent of all s.e.x workers are being reached with HIV prevention programmes,” says Avert.

“About 96 percent of sex workers reported using a condom with their most recent client. Around 93 percent of HIV-positive s.e.x workers were aware of their status of whom 72 percent are on treatment.”

Avert added that s.e.x workers’ vulnerability to HIV is exacerbated by police intimidation, harassment and arrest. “This creates fear that stops s.e.x workers from accessing health services. The Centre for S.e.xual Health, HIV and Aids Research (CeSHHAR) found that 20 percent of female s.e.x workers in Zimbabwe had experienced violence from the police in one way or the other.

“Sex workers, and the organisations representing them, have minimal involvement in the Zimbabwean response to HIV. This marginalises them and prevents them from accessing services. Better inclusion of s.e.x worker-led groups in HIV prevention initiatives would help improve the health of s.e.x workers and the population as a whole.”

The organisation said stigma against people living with HIV and key populations could reverse gains that have been made in containing the disease.

“Stigma and discrimination towards people living with HIV in Zimbabwe remain rife with one study finding that 65 per cent of people living with HIV had experienced some form of discrimination due to their HIV status. The effects of stigma are far-reaching as a majority of s.e.x workers questioned said they avoid healthcare due to stigma and discrimination.”

Source – Chronicle

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