International News

Zimbabwe: In the Eye of the HIV/AIDS Storm

January 11, 2011

Young sex workers in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe's second-largest city, are seeing a spike in HIV infections as a general wariness of condom use continues. Even if they were keen about it, the teens typically have little leverage to negotiate protection against HIV, say advocates.

"I have a steady client and we have since ceased using condoms," "Tasha" explained about her arrangement with one customer. "What use is [a condom] anyway? If I insist on condoms he will simply look for someone else to spend his money on," she said, echoing many other sex workers interviewed.

"If you are concerned about HIV/AIDS, you stay home," said a worker who called herself "Beyonce." Carrying condoms in her purse would be "un-ladylike," she added. "Imagine if my mother found condoms in my purse."

"As far as I have been working here, I have seen little interest in patrons buying condoms, but these are people I know are regular clients of these young girls," said a bartender at a local pub.

"The fact that these young girls have chosen this as a way of life means they have no bargaining clout, as the sex is always with older clients who tend to prefer young prostitutes based on the belief they are AIDS-free," said Patricia Moyo, an HIV counselor. "I talk to many young girls living with HIV and the stories they tell are the same: They could not tell their partners anything about condom use. These are girls who already know the consequences but because of their economic circumstances throw caution to the wind."

"It is quite possible for HIV prevalence to increase in one demographic at the same time it is declining overall, especially when the group concerned is small," said Simon Gregson, an epidemiology researcher at the Biomedical Research and Training Institute in Harare. Nonetheless, they should be targeted with prevention and awareness programming to reinforce condom use.

Back to other news for January 2011

Adapted from:
Inter Press Service
01.06.2011; Ignatius Banda

This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.

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