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Sex workers lead Aids fight


A wave of warm air blows through the night, raising wisps of dust that make the night in Chiredzi unfriendly.

But for the dozens of sex workers lining up the walls of the infamous Chigarapasi Beerhall, the heat or the dust was not enough to deter them from their quest to get the next client.

It is a risky profession, where disease and violence lurk in the air.

For some men who go to solicit for sex, the unprotected way is the most pleasurable, yet the most risky.

And the sex workers have to contend with the different sexual fantasies because it brings the dollar, and often disease.

To deal with this complex situation, the National AIDS Council (NAC) has since roped in sex workers in Chiredzi to play a pivotal role in efforts to curb new HIV infections as well as tame the spread of sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

The programme has seen ladies of the night spread in the district’s hotspots of HIV cases in order to mobilise their peers to get tested and access HIV and STIs services.

Constance Mada, a peer educator, who has been living through sex work for the past 30 years, believes the programme initiated by NAC is changing lives in her community.

‘I started working as a peer educator last year and my role has been to mobilise other sex workers to condomise, get tested for HIV and visit health centres to get other critical HIV services,” she said.

“We have also been working hard to end stigma against people with HIV through talking to the girls. As we speak a lot has changed here.

Another sex worker, who refused to be named, said they tried to discourage young girls from joining the world’s oldest profession
“We also try to dissuade the young girls from doing sex work,” she said.

“We have been telling them of our bad experiences and how we regret having entered into sex work at our young ages.

“Sex work is not a celebrated profession at all. Personally I have been raped and robbed. We try to use such stories to discourage sex work,’ she said.

Peter Nyakudya, the Chiredzi district Aids coordinator said the number of people testing positive for HIV has been dropping significantly since the programme started.

‘We used to have about 1 500 people getting treated for STIs in the district but now the figure has dropped to about 800,” he said.

“We have trained the sex workers and they are doing a great job. In total we have 10 sex workers that are in each ward.

“This has resulted in tremendous reduction of both HIV cases and STIs.”

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