Se_x workers in the mining town of Zvishavane are living in fear of artisanal miners who are allegedly using machetes to demand for unprotected free se_x. Popularly known as “mabhemba”, the artisanal miners, commonly known as makorokoza, are said to have been unleashing terror in the mining town using machetes targeting se_x worker. According to some se_x workers who access health care services through the Centre for se_xual health HIV/AIDS Research (CESSHAR), many se_x workers have been reportedly forced into se_x by the machete wielding makorokozas. “Our greatest challenge in this area are the makorokozas who use machetes to demand for unprotected se_x. They use force to demand for se_x yet they don’t want to pay.
At first they come as potential clients, but the moment you go behind closed doors you find out they have a machete they were hiding under their pants. Ukangoona bhemba rabuda mapinda mumba wotoziva kuti apa ndanyura. Uchati kurohwa n***o mahara pedzezvo okubira mari yako imwe yaunenge washanda,” said one of the se_x worker who identified herself as Sophia.The se_x workers revealed this in a meeting with National AIDS Council (NAC) and journalists during a tour in the mining town ahead of the World AIDS Day. Another se_x worker during the tense meeting accused the young se_x workers of housing theses machete-wielding men who have become a major threat in Zvishavane.
“Vanhu vanogara nevakomana vemabhemba varimo muno,nyaya yemabhemba inotyisa iyi. Izvezvi ndichibva pano nahsi ndogona kudorobwa nebhemba ndarfevegwa. Vasikana vechidiki ndivo vamwe vacho vagere nevakomana vemabhemba. So many times those are unfortunate to have an encounter with the machete-wielding makorokozas have been forced into unprotected se_x which has resulted in se_xually transmitted and HIV infections,” concurred another se_x worker.
The se_x workers argues that while they celebrated the Constitutional Court ruling which last year, outlawed the arrest of se_x workers accused for loitering for the purpose of prostitution, the makorokozas have taken advantage of the absence of police officers at night to unleash terror on se_x workers. The se_x workers, who are classified as a key population in HIV management, thanked CESSHAR, adding that they really have been of help in the face of all these challenges where they find themselves in forced unprotected se_x encouthers, resulting in them getting infected. “Dai isiri CESSHAR takawora nezvigwere. Siki dzose dzorapwa paclinic yavo uye vane utachiwana weHIV vanodopiwa mapiritsi ne CESSHAR.
“As you know there is so much stigma associated with se_x work which has made it very difficult for us to walk into a public health facility to access medical care. Every time you have an STI, you are asked to bring your partner at the clinics before you can be treated. How do I bring a partner when I’m a se_x worker who does not know most of the men she sleeps with,” argued one of the se_x worker plying her trade in Mandava Township.
The escalating machete attacks have also forced night spots owners to tighten their security with patrons being searched for any weapons before entering a bar. Some owners have also placed notices that patrons should not be found in possession of weapons in bars. Commenting on the issue of machete-wielding men in Zvishavane, NAC provincial AIDS coordinator for Midlands’s province said they were working with the Victim Friendly Unit, urging all the se_x workers who have been violated to report cases through this police unit.
“Gender Based Violence is rampant due to mining activities and we are seized with issues of abuse among this group. se_x workers are urged to report any cases of abuse through the Victim Friendly Unit so that we collectively curb cases of abuse especially among se_x workers if we are to cut on new infections and ending AIDS,” said Mambeu Shumba.
As the country commemorates World AIDS Day today, under the theme,” Closing the Tap on New HIV Infections”, HIV prevalence rate has remained high in se_x workers and currently stands above 50 percent.
HIV activists have repeatedly called on the government to seriously include se_x workers and all key populations in HIV programing if the country is to achieve the ambitious UNAIDS targets of ending AIDS through the 90-90-90 targets. According to the 90-90-90 target, 90 percent of the population should know their HIV status, 90 percent of those diagnosed with HIV should be initiated on ART thereby having 90 percent of those on ART having their viral load suppressed