By CHENGETO CHIDI
Forbes Border Clinic has been turned into a haven health facility for sex workers, allowing them to get services without exposure to ridicule or abuse.
According to Centre for Sexual Health and HIV/AIDS Research (CeSHHAR), which runs the centre in partnership with National Aids Council, (NAC) it provides services to nearly 400 sex workers every month.
Those in Mutare who have been using the facility told HSTVNews they were a happier lot because in the past owing to harassment and ill-treatment at other public clinics and hospitals there had challenges accessing medical help.
32-year-old Tracey Maseko popularly known as Rasta in her trade said the clinic had saved her from a life of drugs that she started while she was just Grade 6.
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“I would always be drunk and used drugs, I could not cope if I had not consumed any drugs but ever since I joined CeSHHAR as a peer educator I have received counselling and managed to stop using as well as warn others from doing,” Maseko said.
She said previously she was at high risk of contracting sexually transmitted infections and HIV during her drunken stupors
“Sometimes I would get intoxicated and engage in sex unaware only to realise when I wake up that I would have had unprotected sex,” she said.
The facility also provides counselling and lessons on Gender Based Violence (GBV) which have been commended by the sex workers who at times were both victims and perpetrators of GBV.
“I also received GBV counselling because previously I would fear no one when I got drunk, whether it’s boyfriends, neighbours and even others but when I got sober it would be different,” Maseko shared.
CeSHHAR Zimbabwe Forbes Clinic site manager Beauty Dhliwayo shared how lives changed as sex workers received counselling, health services, and advice on business startups
“They are doing better in condom use and conduct in the community due to the services we offer here at our clinic- Most of the sex workers we see here are no longer relying much on sex work but are part of self-help groups so they can support themselves and their families,” Dhliwayo said.
The facility is not only exclusive to sex workers but also serves truck drivers who at some point end up being clients of the sex workers.
One of the nurses at the clinic Mavis Mureyani said clients had increased after the Covid 19 induced lockdown because of referrals most of whom were truck drivers
“My main target is to treat truck drivers who are in transit, we do HIV testing, then initiate people on ART or PREP, COVID testing as well as screening for TB. These days we receive many clients at the facility as there are several hotspots,” she said.