22 August 2017
THERE is an increase in the population of male sex workers that have sprouted around Harare and other towns and cities, it has emerged.
While HIV programmers have been grappling with a high HIV prevalence rate among female sex workers, it has emerged that there is a growing number of male sex workers across the country.
National AIDS Council operations director, Raymond Yekeye last week revealed that they have received reports of rising cases of male sex workers adding that they were also treating them as key population.
“We have had a few male sex workers who have come out in the open but of course not all of them will come out in the open. What we know is that the number of these male sex workers is rising,” he said last week.
Yekeye said they were already in the process of conducting a size estimation of sex workers, thus including female and male sex workers which will aid them in programming.
“We hope to have a size estimation of sex workers by end of year which will give us information on sex workers such as age, numbers among other information.
“We hope this information will then guide us on policy because at the moment there is no data on sex workers while this is a key population given that the HIV prevalence rate among sex workers is over 50 percent,” he added.
The operations director also added that some of the male sex workers were targeting well up women and use the ‘Can I drive you’ catch word to approach their clients.
“They use different tactics and unlike the female sex workers, they have a different way of soliciting. You will not really find them on the streets waiting for their clients, some masquerades as chauffeurs yet they are sex workers,” he added.
A Harare male sex worker known in his trade as Father Booster who spoke to H-Metro last week revealed that he was earning his living through ‘entertaining sex starved women’.
“I offer sex services to women for a living and my prices range from US$10 depending with the type of client. Just last weekend I was in Victoria Falls where one of my clients took me for the weekend and I offered her services throughout the weekend.
“You will be surprised if you get to know some of the well up women who pay me for sex. I suppose these women have money but they are likely sex starved hence resort to paying for sex,” said Father Booster.
The 32-year-old who boasted of being great in bed claimed that he has probably bedded over 300 women ever since he started sex work at the age of 20, albeit he has no tangible assets to show from a career he has been in for over a decade.
“I have slept with over 300 women since I started this and I now have regular clients who call me for the services.”
A Ministry of Health and Child Care official said while services are available for female sex workers such as HIV and testing and counselling, family planning and sexually transmitted infections treatment, there was need for programming to also target the male sex workers who can probably be an impediment to the achievement of the ending AIDS goal if left out.
The official said the sex workers are in the process of registering networks with one in Harare called Zimbabwe Rainbow Community and Zimbabwe Sex Workers Association (Zimswa) for the Bulawayo chapter.
“We really have a growing population of male sex workers and if they continue to be left out in HIV interventions, we might not achieve the 90-90-90 goals. The emerging male sex workers really pose a threat to the fight against HIV fight.
“The complexity of some of these male sex workers is that they are bisexual and it is important not to ignore that they exist. They are cash driven yet they still continue to spread the epidemic.
“They are in the process of registering networks so they can organise themselves and be able to lobby for access of friendly health services,” said the official.
The Centre for Sexual Health HIV/AIDS Research (CESSHAR) is already working in the country where it is providing friendly user services for female sex workers.
According to United Nations AIDS Programme (UNAIDS), Zimbabwe has one of the world’s highest HIV prevalence rates at 14 percent with some 1,2 million locals living with HIV.
And over the years the country has tried to address the needs of specific populations within the context of prevention, treatment, care and support. The key populations are considered to be at a significantly higher risk of HIV infection than the general population due to behaviours, the nature of duty, lifestyle practices among other factors.
Sex workers are among the key populations and the HIV prevalence among this group in Zimbabwe is estimated to be between 50 and 70 percent.