Prostitutes, Vendors Scrounge on Zimbabwe Roads
November 18, 2005
Desperate economic conditions in Zimbabwe are forcing thousands of young people to work as roadside vendors or prostitutes. The "highway girls," as they are called, are often picked up by crossborder truck drivers, a phenomenon that health authorities say is feeding an HIV/AIDS epidemic that kills 2,500 Zimbabweans each week.
"I have to do this because there are no jobs, and the income is a bit higher than selling vegetables, said Rumbidzai, 20, who has worked as a prostitute for two years in the central town of Chivhu. "I know there is AIDS, and I insist on condoms."
The highway girls are such a common sight they have been immortalized in a popular song called "Madhara Egonyeti" ("Elderly Truckers"). It pleads with the drivers to refrain from having sex with young girls.
The problem has been exacerbated by this year's controversial shantytown destruction campaign, which the UN says has left 700,000 people homeless and destroyed the economy's informal sector. Critics blame the crisis on President Robert Mugabe, whose policies they say have turned the nation, once a food exporter, into a beggar state with more than 70 percent unemployment.
11.17.2005; Cris Chinaka
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.