Health service barriers to HIV treatment for sex workers in Zimbabwe

Mtewwa, S., Busza, J., Chidiya, S., Mungofa, S., Cowan, F.
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This study can be used as evidence of the need for governments and health programmes to take the needs and rights of sex workers living with HIV on board!

Although disproportionately affected by HIV, sex workers remain neglected by efforts to expand access to ART. In Zimbabwe, this qualitative research study was carried out to determine some of the reasons sex workers take up HIV referrals and ART initiation.

Findings include sex workers feeling demeaned and humiliated by health workers and inconvenient opening/appointment times. Costs of both transport to clinics and also of treatment were also factors for sex workers accessing treatment, care and support.

Improving treatment access for SWs is critical for their own health, programme equity and public health benefit and all barriers experienced by sex workers in accessing treatment must be recognised and mitigated – including the sensitisation of health service providers. Sex workers should also be given the opportunity to collectivise for improved treatment and rights will help alleviate the barriers to treatment initiation and attrition currently faced by SWs.