Some 1.6 million out of 13 million Zimbabweans are HIV positive, the majority of them women, it said.
HIV campaigners have taken their safe sex messages to hotspots like long distance trucker stopovers and small semi-urban centres, but change has yet to take root in city centres where young women like Susan operate.
“Sex workers in Zimbabwe continue to be a key population where intensive HIV prevention efforts are needed,” said UNAIDS Country Director for Zimbabwe Michael Bartos.
“While there is a national sex worker programme in Zimbabwe, continuing high rates of HIV transmission among sex workers suggest that its implementation has not been sufficiently successful.”
Globally, female sex workers are 14 times more likely to have HIV than other women, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
Sex work is illegal in Zimbabwe, which makes it hard to reach this vulnerable population.
Medical staff, particularly in government hospitals and clinics, accuse sex workers of spreading HIV/AIDS and call them abusive names, making them reluctant to seek care, CeSHHAR said.
Almost half the 52 000 sex workers who have visited CeSHHAR’s clinics since 2009 required treatment for a sexually transmitted disease.
One in five of the 52 000 started selling their bodies as teenagers, it said.
Zinhle, who describes herself as a “veteran prostitute”, solicits for business in a working-class neighbourhood tavern.
“I tell my clients I am HIV positive,” she said, declining to give her full name. “It’s up to them whether they want to use condoms or not. I don’t care.”
Experts have highlighted pubs and bars as places where people engage in risky sex after drinking alcohol – which is also linked to poor adherence to Aids drugs.
More must be done to ensure that sex workers, gay men, injecting drug users, prisoners and transgender women receive HIV prevention, testing and treatment if the world is to end the epidemic, experts say.
Men who have sex with men are also excluded from services in Zimbabwe, Bartos said, because of cultural taboos and the criminalisation of homosexuality.
Yet the attitude of many young people in the city to sex and Aids remains one of complacency.
“There’s no one who doesn’t know there is Aids,” said Thomas Ndlovu, who pays for sex but declined to say whether he uses condoms.
“We all have to die some time.”