Heroic Aunt Saving Lives of Sex Workers in Zimbabwe


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Features Correspondent

….Precious Msindo’s tireless efforts to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS among sex workers

HARARE: In a society where the title of “aunt” holds great respect for an elderly woman, one extraordinary individual has earned the revered title through her selfless dedication and love for the safety of sex workers.

Precious Msindo, a 30-year-old woman from Hatfield, has become a celebrated figure for her efforts in saving lives and preventing the spread of HIV/AIDS in and around Harare.

Msindo’s journey begins each evening as she embarks on a mission to distribute condoms at sex hotspots in the city.

Digital Telegraph had the opportunity to witness her work first hand as she arrived at St Patrick’s shops on a Friday night.

The sight of her car, loaded with boxes of condoms, brought immeasurable joy to women who were eagerly awaiting her arrival.

They affectionately called her “Tete Precious” (Aunt Precious) and expressed their gratitude for her timely arrival.

“Aaah tete Precious mazouya manje!” (Aunt Precious, you have finally come), exclaimed one of the ladies expressing immeasurable happiness.

As the boxes were distributed, it became evident that these condoms were a lifeline for these women, a vital tool in protecting themselves from the risks they face daily.

Msindo’s commitment to their safety and well-being is unwavering, as she ensures that these women have access to the resources they desperately need.

Her dedication extends beyond condom distribution.

She provides psychosocial support to sex workers, assisting them in various aspects of life.

Despite being a married farmer involved in poultry and piggery farming, her passion lies in HIV/AIDS prevention and supporting vulnerable women and girls.

Born and raised in Epworth, a neighborhood known for its sex work hotspot, Msindo has witnessed first-hand the struggles faced by young women who turn to sex work as a means of survival.

In an area where unemployment and poverty are prevalent, sexually transmitted infections are alarmingly common.

Msindo initially focused her efforts in Epworth but has since expanded her coverage to reach sex workers in other areas.

“Young and vulnerable women and girls are at my heart. My dream is to use my extensive experience in HIV and Aids prevention to save such lives,” she said.

As the festive season approached, Msindo prepared to intensify her work.

She attended public gatherings, overnight shows, and even traveled to Kadoma, where she distributed condoms at big events featuring foreign artists.

“There is an influx of sex workers who prey on the working class; whose wallets will be fat after receiving the most coveted 13th cheque – my schedule was tight.

“I have been at almost all the public gatherings that took place from Christmas up to the new-year overnight shows distributing condoms,” she said.

 Her tireless efforts are supported by the National Aids Council, local clinics, and other stakeholders who contribute condoms for distribution.

Annually, Msindo distributes an average of 150,000 condoms, a staggering number that highlights the scale of her impact.

However, her mission goes beyond the distribution of condoms.

Through her organization, Springs of Life Zimbabwe, she initiates community-led projects aimed at empowering sex workers and providing them with alternative sources of income.

“Our main focus is to preserve life while giving sex workers alternative ways of raising money than vindicating them,” she said.

Projects such as a bakery, chicken rearing, and a sanitary wear factory offer these women an opportunity to escape the cycles of poverty and exploitation.

Tendayi Magatsa, a sex worker involved in the poultry project, expressed her gratitude for the opportunity to leave the profession.

She spoke of the challenges faced by sex workers and the difficulties they encounter in demanding fair payment and ensuring the use of protection.

Thanks to the income-generating projects, Magatsa can now send her children to school and has gained respect from her community.

“Indulging in sex work is because of desperation and if we get more income-generating projects we can leave the profession. These days we are facing difficulties and we end up charging very little money for survival,” she said.

“Now I am able to send my two children to school while getting respect from my neighbours unlike before, everyone would treat me like trash.”

Tania Chagombeka, another sex worker, shared her story of how the income-generating projects have transformed her life.

Previously subjected to bullying and exploitation due to her young age, Chagombeka now has a source of income that allows her to support herself and regain her dignity.

“I used to encounter various challenges of people who would not want to pay after rendering them services, some would even refuse to use protection because of my age.

“Senior sex workers used to bully me, but now I am happy that I can generate some money,” she said.

Mrs Ethina Samanga, the district AIDS coordinator for the National AIDS Council, highlighted the reasons why many women in Epworth turn to sex work.

The informal nature of the settlement and the reliance on buying and selling create an environment where sex work becomes a means of survival.

She acknowledged the organizations supporting sex workers and their efforts to provide sustainable income-generating projects.

Dr Walter Shanyurai, a sociologist and former lecturer at the University of Zimbabwe, emphasized the importance of socialization in shaping a person’s life.

He highlighted the role parents play in surrounding their children with positive influences and individuals who can guide them towards a better future.

Precious Msindo’s story is one of compassion, resilience, and a commitment to saving lives.

Her tireless efforts to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS and empower sex workers have earned her the title of “aunt” among those she has touched.

As Zimbabwe celebrates the decline in HIV/AIDS prevalence, Msindo stands as a beacon of hope and a testament to the power of one individual to make a difference in the lives of many.

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