Experts have warned of a new HIV and Aids scare in the small mining town of Zvishavane after it emerged that commercial se_x workers are posing as Midlands State University (MSU) students in order to attract customers.
Leading HIV and Aids activists said se_x workers are carrying around books, satchels, laptops and hanging fake identity cards from their necks so that they lure men who are more attracted to MSU students since the opening of a university campus in the town last year.
Se_x workers carrying laptop bags are also seen loitering at the MSU Campus during knock off time.Zvishavane Network for Se_xual and Reproductive Health coordinator Proud Shoko said the situation is worrisome as the se_x workers are going to help increase the spread of HIV from a number of angles including the perception that one have towards students compared to the se_x workers.
She added that young university students were also dating the se_x workers unknowingly.
“What worries the most is that even young university male students are dating these prostitutes unknowingly,” said Shoko.
More worrying is that Zvishavane has the second highest HIV and Aids prevalence for any town in the country, said Shoko.
MSU Public Relations officer, Mirirai Mawere said, “Students have a student affairs board which conducts awareness programs in terms of HIV/Aids and social life in general
Tanaka Maposa, a commercial se_x worker confirmed the trend and said she and her colleagues have been losing clients since the opening of an MSU campus in the city and as a result they now masquerade as university students.
MSU moved its English and Communication, Development Studies, Politics and Public Management, Peace Studies programmes from Gweru to Zvishavane in 2015.
“Men here are now hunting for MSU students and the only way we can survive is masquerade as them. If you cannot beat them, join them. Business has been getting low ever since the establishment of MSU,” said a se_x worker who declined to be named.
“Men prefer the students because they feel they are smarter, younger, challenging and carries a lower risk when it comes to HIV and other se_xually transmitted diseases,” said another se_x worker who identified herself as Tsitsi Moyo.
“Zvishavane is currently the second leading town in Zimbabwe with people living with HIV and AIDS hence the need for awareness campaigns to be spearheaded,” said Shoko.
Bethany Project director Rebecca Gumbo called for the engagement of young women especially those involved in prostitution business to be empowered with various livelihood programs.
“There is need to engage these commercial se_x workers by empowering them with livelihood programs so as to stop the spread of the deadly virus. These developments at MSU do not only risk the Zvishavane community only but the nation as a whole since these students come from various parts of the country,” said Gumbo.