MASVINGO province is grappling with disturbing phenomena of child prostitution at most busy leisure spots, fuelling incidents of Sexually Transmitted Infections, an official has said.
In an interview on the sidelines of HIV and Aids campaign road show held at 4 1 Infantry Brigade Combat Group in Masvingo yesterday National Aids Council (NAC) provincial manager, Edgar Muzulu said there was a worrying trend of young girls found at HIV and Aids hot spots soliciting for sex.
“There is a worrying trend of child prostitution where girls as young as 12 years are found soliciting for transactional sex from mainly truck drivers at busy leisure spots,” said Muzulu.
“According to statistics we collected from clinics near these hot spots, we realised that there is an increase of at least 20 percent in incidents of STIs.
“This was recorded at the clinic around Mhandamabwe Business Centre, Ngundu Business Centre in Chivi, Lundi Business Centre in Mwenezi, Jerera Business Centre in Zaka and Chigarapasi Beerhall in Chiredzi in 2018.
“At Lundi and Chiredzi, which are the worst hit hot spots, we had more than 300 cases as compared to 200 the previous year,” he said.
He said the situation was scuttling efforts towards achieving zero new HIV infections by 2030.
“We are continuing with our traditional interventions of health awareness campaigns like what we are doing today at 4 1 Infantry Brigade.
“We, however, have specific interventions, tailored for young girls so that they do not venture into prostitution. We have sister to sister programme where we make use of mentorship strategies.
“We form clubs of girls under 25 years who are also mentored by another girl of the same age.
“The mentor will lead two groups of 25 girls each and we have launched these programmes in Bikita, Chiredzi, Zaka, Gutu and Chivi districts,” he said.
He said under sister to sister model, young girls are taken through financial, sexual and physical awareness programme.
Turning to the programme of the day, Muzulu said NAC was looking forward to an increased collaboration with the military given that its personnel was confined and had little access to civilian health programmes.
“We are doing such programmes where we want to educate our military about a number of health programmes. We have HIV testing, cancer screening, Voluntary Medical Male Circumcision (VMCC) where soldiers and their families are also taking part.
“The military lives in confined set but we have been provided with an opportunity to interface with them,” he said.
4 I Infantry Brigade Combat Group Commander, Lieutenant Colonel Tapiwanashe Maburutse hailed NAC for taking health services to the military’s door steps.
“We applaud NAC for bringing the HIV testing and counselling services near to my command. We wish such programmes to continue so that the army personnel and its families benefit by knowing their status to live responsibly,” said Lt Col Maburutse.