Utilisation of HIV services by female sex workers in Zimbabwe during the COVID-19 pandemic: a descriptive phenomenological study

Idah Moyo*, Livhuwani Tshivhase, Azwihangwisi Helen Mavhandu-Mudzusi

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


This study focuses on female sex workers as a key population group that suffers a degree of vulnerability according to the World Health Organisation (WHO). Key populations refer to people at heightened risk of contracting the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) due to specific behaviours and social and legal environments which increase their vulnerability to the virus. Key populations are disproportionately affected by HIV, yet they have less access to HIV services compared to the general population. The coronavirus (COVID-19) lockdown and its restrictive measures have further widened the inequalities and gaps in accessing HIV services for this group. A descriptive phenomenological study was undertaken to explore female sex workers’ experiences of utilisation of HIV services during COVID-19. The study setting was the Bulawayo Metropolitan Province, Zimbabwe. Data were collected through in-depth individual interviews with 10 female sex workers. Purposive sampling coupled with snowballing was utilised for recruiting participants. Data were analysed guided by the seven-step Colaizzi technique. Rigour was ensured through adhering to Lincoln and Guba’s trustworthiness criteria. The study found that the COVID-19 pandemic adversely affected the livelihoods of sex workers and their utilisation of HIV services. There was limited access to HIV services due to an initial lack of travel authorisation letters and financial challenges experienced by study participants. In addition, the quality of care in health care facilities was further compromised by poor screening processes and reduced provider-client interactions. Maintaining access to HIV services for female sex workers during pandemics is critical for the country to attain HIV epidemic control.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)183-193
Number of pages11
JournalAfrican Journal of AIDS Research
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2022


  • COVID-19
  • HIV services
  • descriptive phenomenology
  • female sex workers
  • livelihood
  • utilisation


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