by Patrick Chitumba
For 13-year-old Mercy Tawenga (not her real name) life changed when she lost her parents and ended up staying with a distant relative at Durlstone farming area, Macheke area, Murehwa District, in Mashonaland East Province.Mercy says she is now three months pregnant after she was forced into prostitution becoming one of the child prostitutes who frequent mostly makeshift or backyard bars in Macheke.
This is not a unique case for this area but across the country where young girls are forced into prostitution by circumstances which include loss of parents and poverty.
But at the end of it all, adolescent pregnancy has huge psycho-social, economic and health consequences including emotional stress, low self-esteem, dropping out of school, expulsion from school, stigmatisation of single mothers, forced marriage, promiscuity, abandonment, unsafe abortions, suicide, poverty, and negative health outcomes for both the mother and baby.
In this case Mercy, a Grade Six dropout — is now HIV-positive at that tender age and is one of the many people coming from the farming communities around Durlstone Primary School, Macheke area for National Aids Council (Nac) HIV intervention programmes which target specific key-population groups, among them sex workers, truck drivers, artisanal miners, adolescent girls and young women.
Mashonaland East Province, according to latest Nac statistics has a high positivity rate as high as 38 percent especially among farming communities in which Mercy and hundreds of girls live in.