There is a critical shortage of medicines to curb HIV/AIDS transmission amid concern over the proliferation of a new breed of sex workers, married women, who are flocking mining areas around gold-rich Kadoma City in Mashonaland West Province.
Prevention regimes known as pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) are said to be in short supply in the Etina mining area of Kadoma.
PrEP is the use of medications to prevent the spread of HIV and AIDS in people who have not yet been exposed to a disease-causing agent, usually a virus.
The term typically refers to the use of antiviral drugs as a strategy for the prevention of the condition.
In a recent interview in Kadoma, Centre for Sexual Health, HIV and AIDS (CESSHAR) Outreach Services worker, Audrey Chikeya, lamented the shortage of PrEP, which she said needs to be addressed since many clients were coming for the service.
Various organisations, including the National AIDS Council (NAC), have rolled out awareness programmes, with the CESSHAR confirming that up to 3,500 sex workers are being assisted by the organisation.
“One of our major challenges as we work with sex workers is shortage of PrEP, which needs improvement in stocks for this drug. Many clients are coming for it.
“Our catchment area caters for 3,500 sex workers. The challenge is that they are migratory, so sometimes they miss out on the services. We are now providing pre-exposure prophylaxis for those who test negative,” said Chikeya.
“The other challenge is on retention of our clients as you know sex workers are too mobile,” she said.
She revealed that amongst their clients were married women and men.
“We also deal with married people here, in this circumstance a wife will leave their husband, say in Harare, purporting to be going for business, then they spend days prostituting for money, buy her stuff and goes back home to her husband,” added Chikeya.
The centre also trains sex workers in life skills, which have gone a long way in empowering the constituency.
Mining communities remain red zones for sexually transmitted infections (STIs). In the wake of revelations, some women are engaging in rampant sexual activities with multiple partners.
Confessions from daring sex workers in the Etna mining area, located some 30km east of Kadoma, sent shivers down spines of journalists undertaking a media tour organised by NAC.
One of them revealed she has been intimate with over 200 men from the same settlement, while her colleague also confirmed contracting STIs several times after sexual escapades.
“I have slept with about 200 men here. Sometimes repeatedly. They never fight because they understand the game. I, however, have received education on prevention methods to reduce the risk of infection,” said one sex worker.
“The sex workers are very free to share information with us and they are keen to get tested. Sometimes they receive the necessary services like ART,” said Nursing Counsellor, Tsitsi Murare.
Sex work is considered difficult to end completely, with education on prevention and provision of services to reduce the risk of HIV and STI transmission being considered one of the best approaches to achieve positive results.