Today is World Aids Day and Vendors Initiative for Social and Economic Transformation (VISET) joins the world in commemorating this day under the theme “End Inequalities: End AIDS”.
According to the 2014 Zimstat Labour Force and Child Labour Survey Report 94.5 % of 6.3 million people defined as working are in the informal economy. 72% of the informal economy employees were in the broad age group 20-44 years. The Zimbabwe Population-based HIV Impact Assessment survey (ZIMPHIA 2020) highlighted that, the rate of annual new HIV infections among adults in Zimbabwe is 0.38 percent (0.54 percent among women and 0.20 percent among men) or approximately 31,000 persons over a year. The prevalence of HIV among adults was 12.9 percent, which corresponds to approximately 1.23 million adults in Zimbabwe living with HIV in 2020. Generally, the survey found that HIV prevalence was higher among women than men (15.3 percent vs. 10.2 percent) further highlighting the unequal power relations in society. Due to the nature of their jobs the sector is most vulnerable to HIV and AIDS. Health services and programmes, which are provided during normal operating hours, are out of their reach because the workers have to be by their places of work in order to earn an income. The susceptibility of the workers in the informal economy also results from lack of social protection and basic services, lack of access to formal markets, exploitative working conditions, poverty; lack of access to education and skills training, inaccessibility to meaningful credit services and risky lifestyles.
Whilst sub–Saharan Africa continues to grapple with HIV/AIDS, the developed world has long since ceased to see this as a life-threatening disease owing to superior health systems. The first world can and should do more in ensuring manufacturing and distribution of medicines and the development of vaccines. Many on the African continent have wondered if there would still be no vaccine against AIDS if it had been as widespread in the developed world as it is in the third world, as seen by the COVID-19 pandemic.
VISET today calls for the end of ALL forms of discrimination and inequalities if we are to win the fight against AIDS and all other pandemics. The organization urges the government of Zimbabwe to ensure that HIV/AIDS interventions do not treat the sector as homogeneous. Informal enterprise operators tend to be rather youthful and therefore sexually active as such support for the sector against HIV/AIDS should include both the prevention of HIV infection and the care of people who are already infected.