Artisanal miners within the Great Dyke region have called on the authorities to provide sexual and reproductive health services in remote mining areas saying the communities in the areas are at risk of contracting sexually transmitted infections due to unsafe sex.
Speaking to Great Dyke News 24, some miners said they are at risk of sexually transmitted infections due to lack of sexual and reproductive health services.
According to Shurugwi District Aids Coordinator (DAC) Petros Mazengwa, they are trying by all means to rope in the artisanal miners after rising incidences of sexually transmitted infections (STIs).
“As NAC, we have now realised the need to involve the artisanal miners in our HIV programmes after we noticed an increase in STIs and HIV infections from the mining areas.
“There are stories of these machete-wielding artisanal miners demanding unprotected sex from commercial sex workers, so we saw it important to incorporate them in our HIV awareness campaigns to spread the message,” said Mazengwa.
Shurugwi has one of the country’s highest HIV prevalence rates which is pegged at 17% at a time when the national average stands at 13%. On average, about 300 cases of STIs are recorded every month.
A senior nurse at Shurugwi District Hospital’s opportunistic infection clinic, said there had been an increase in people testing HIV positive in the area, but most of them disappear before they are put on antiretroviral therapy (Art).
“In the last quarter of 2018, we tested 858 people and 77 were HIV positive, but only 64 percent were put on Art.
“In the first quarter of 2019, we tested 727 and 51 were HIV positive, but only 74 percent were put on ART. The remainder went back to the mines, declining medication,” he said.
The gold-mining areas within the Great Dyke are characterized by social, economic, and cultural factors that facilitate the transmission of HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases (HIV/STDs). For instance, gold-mining sites tend to have high concentrations of men between the ages of 20 and 45.
Many men never settle down, migrating out of a particular community once all the gold there has been extracted. These mining sites have their own social organisation, with a private system of law and order.