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Engage sex workers to stop new HIV infections - UNFPA
Community Radio Harare (CORAH)
December 07, 2012

The fight against new HIV infections will never be won if government does not engage commercial sex workers in its HIV and AIDS programming, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) has advised.

'We talk about three zeros in the fight against HIV and AIDS and this can never be attained without engaging commercial sex workers; that can never happen. If the President has advisors and they do not advise him accordingly by telling him this, I tell you this will never happen,' Samson Chidiya a programmes officer with the UNFPA told a gathering attending a dialogue meeting organised by Zimbabwe Women Resource Centre Network (ZWRCN) and Katswe Sistahood in Harare discussing gender based violence in the streets on Monday.

The three zeros which the UNFPA worker refers to are 'Zero new infections, Zero discrimination and Zero AIDS related deaths,' a theme which Zimbabwe has adopted in its HIV and AIDS management.

One of the commercial sex workers at the meeting said the police are the major culprits in abusing them.

'The police arrest us indiscriminately without even being convinced that we have committed any offence. If they find us even coming out of night clubs they arrest us, but we think this is an abuse on our part because we have the right of movement in this country,' she said.

Guest at the meeting, MDC-T legislator Thabitha Khumalo said she is willing to distribute condoms to sex workers as her contribution to the elimination of new HIV and AIDS infections, before expressing disappointment over government's reluctance to engage sex workers.

The police have launched several operations such as 'Chipo chiroorwa' and 'Dyira bonus yako kumba' targeting women found in the streets at night.

Human rights defenders and women organisations always complain about the criminalisation of sex work, and the indiscriminate arrests of women found walking in streets at night by the police saying they are meant to extort and abuse the venerable group.

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