By Simbarashe Fenton M
The Centre for Sexual Health and HIV/AIDS (CeSHHAR Zimbabwe) has come on board to help sexual workers who are part of those hard hit by the lockdown to embark on self-help projects and continue to take a good care of their health as the economic situation gets worse.
CeSHHAR recently conducted a free consultation, counselling outreach programme in Torwood, Redcliff, where the organisation focused on widow sexual workers who are more vulnerable to both the HIV/AIDS and sharp pangs of poverty.
The Non-Governmental Organisation provided counselling, gave out condoms, educated sexual workers on health issues and offered free treatment for Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STIs)and HIV/AIDS to sex workers who are not able to visit public health centres due to stigmatisation and inferiority complex reasons.
Speaking on the sidelines of the programme one sexual worker who identified herself as Mamoyo said that she was now tired of the profession as it no longer pays. She indicated that the death of her husband some years back forced her into sex work as the burden of fending for her family weighed heavy on her shoulders.
“The truth is I am now tired of this job, it is no longer paying and I am getting old but my children need food, school fees so I have to continue doing what I know best- selling sex. CeSHHAR has helped me a lot especially on treatment of STIs and the management of HIV/AIDS which I could have not done alone. It is encouraging to have some people who care and are stand with us through this rough journey”, she said.
The program brought together different age groups ranging from the early 20s up to late 40s who expressed themselves without fear and exhibited a unique kind of camaraderie and togetherness quite rare among sisters in the same profession. Sex workers continue to face a myriad of challenges that range from lack of proper healthcare to stigmatization from the community. The National Aids Council has done a number of national and context specific programs meant to extirpate the scourge of stigma and discrimination which wields the greatest potential towards reversing the gains made this far in as far as getting to ZERO is new infections and deaths is concerned.
“I think I have been in this business for 20 years now, my husband passed away when I was still young and energetic. The fall of ZISCO compounded our economic hardships making me join sex work as the immediate fall back for a person like me who has no professional qualifications.
We have been stigmatised a lot, called many names. Our children are exposed to verbal emotional abused every day and this is so stressing because I wish a different path for my children. The government should intervene and provide us with better employment activities such as income generating projects.” she lamented.
Responding to the Guiding Star on condition of confidentiality, CeSHHAR coordinating representative on the programme commended the women for their courage to come out in their numbers for the initiative which the organisation is spearheading to promote health and better life for widows in the profession.
“I commend these mothers, these women for coming out today. It shows the message is getting out although there still more to be done to ensure that they are safe, healthy and have opportunities to addressing economic and wellbeing issues facing them.” She said.
CeSHHAR is Non-Governmental Organisation registered with the Ministry of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare as a private voluntary organisation (PVO) with the sole objective to communicate health issues such as HIV prevention, sexual health research and to conduct programmatic projects.