A recent report released by Botswana’s Ministry of Health has revealed that there are more than 1,500 Zimbabwean sex workers in the country.
The report shows that HIV prevalence is higher among Zimbabwean sex workers than any other group. It indicates that Zimbabwean men are also engaged in commercial sex.
The report was conducted to determine the prevalence of HIV among commercial sex workers. The attitude of health professionals towards sex workers also comes under scrutiny in the report.
The survey, which was conducted between 2012 and 2013, focused on three centres - Gaborone, Francistown and Kasane.
The capital Gaborone has more than 1,200 Zimbabwean sex workers while 300 operate in Francistown near the Plumtree border post. The resort town, Kasane, has 100 Zimbabwean sex workers and others are scattered in various urban areas in Botswana.
There are almost 4,153 commercial sex workers in the three towns. More than 70 percent of the women cite financial gain and lack of employment as reasons for engaging in this trade.
Statistics show that HIV prevalence is high among Zimbabwean sex workers compared to their Botswana counterparts.
Francistown-based Matshelo Community Development Association, a non-governmental organisation seeks to assist sex workers. Its programmes director, Gaolape Makgarapa, says sex workers, regardless of nationality, have been surprisingly open and approach her office for basic services.
She adds that men, including Zimbabweans, are involved in commercial sex work.
The high figures have been met with mixed reactions from fellow Zimbabweans living in Botswana.
Joyce Ndlovu, a teacher in Gaborone, says sex workers should not be judged harshly despite engaging in an activity loathed by many people.
But Aaron Nleya does not like this old profession, arguing that the involved Zimbabwean women are a disgrace.
Commercial sex work remains illegal in Botswana although in the last decade, human rights organisations have pushed for the trade to be legalised.
Former President, Festus Mogae once said he wants sex work decriminalized.
The government argues that sex workers should engage in safe sex and health centers are expected to treat them like any other sick person.