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Long-haul truck drivers now top the list of people who are using sex-enhancement drugs which pose serious health risks, a new report has shown.
According to a latest report titled: “Analysis of the causes and patterns of high risk heterosexual behaviours among long distance drivers in Zimbabwe,” about 31 percent of the long-haul truck drivers reported the use of sexual enhancement substances (SES).
The report was compiled by the National Employment Council for the Transport Operating Industry (NECTOI) in partnership with Zimbabwe National Council for the Welfare of Children (ZNCWC), Zimbabwe Aids Prevention and Support Organisation (ZACRO) and Proggession Zimbabwe.
Ms Fiona Mwashita, head of Progression’s Southern Africa sub-regional office, said a high number of truck drivers acknowledged the use of drugs to boost their sexual performance.
“The research revealed that truck drivers are using these drugs to enhance their performance when they engage in sexual activities with commercial sex workers. Some of them said they did not need to use condoms after taking these drugs,” she said.
The common SES mentioned in the report are Congo Dust, Gonazororo and Enzoy.
Gonazororo is extracted from the baobab fruit (Malambe) and Enzoy is an energy power drink sold in small bags, which can be bought in bars and lodges along the transport corridors especially Bulawayo-Victoria Falls and Chirundu-Harare corridors.
Congo dust is from the Democratic Republic of Congo and Gonazororo is found from vendors in Zambia.
The report also revealed that 7,6 percent of the truck drivers do not use condoms after taking the sexual enhancers while 79 percent said they used condoms after taking SES.
Furthermore, the report identified that while driving, some long distance truck drivers may take stimulants and other mind-altering drugs to keep them energised.
The truck drivers, as stated in the report, have attributed this behaviour of drug use to the poor working conditions which require them to stay awake to drive long distances.
Health experts warn that misusing sex drugs can cause serious side effects, including heart problems, and loss of sexual ability for good.
They say abusers can suffer a condition called priapism, a persistent painful erection that lasts for hours, damaging the muscles of the penis.
Researchers said “herbal products” are being marketed aggressively as “potent” solutions to boost sexual stamina and eliminate dysfunctions.
“The dangers of using sexual enhancement substances may include getting hooked to the drugs. This means that every time one desires to have sex, they ought to have the drugs and this is not good,” said a local medical practitioner who preferred anonymity.
According to the report long distance truck drivers are vulnerable to HIV due to their high interaction with commercial sex workers.
The Harare-Beitbridge and Harare-Chirundu transport route is charecterised by high risk sexual behaviour by truck drivers.
“Along the Harare-Beitbridge route, long distance truck drivers pass through Ngundu where there is a large number of sex workers. It is at this small settlement that truck drivers are approached by sex workers.
“Alcohol and other drugs including SES are widely used by the drivers to help cope with stress and increase sexual prowess. The nature of their job leaves them at high exposure to sex workers along highways who are preying on their targets,” read the report.
In addition to the uptake of SES, the Harare-Beitbridge route recorded the highest number of truck drivers who take alcohol in excess.
“The study revealed that the use of alcohol is associated with high risk heterosexual behaviour which supports the finding of rampant sex work along that route. Alcohol is readily available and truck drivers have the disposable income to purchase the alcohol.”
Ms Mwashita said it was important to put measures in place that ensure truck drivers are taught the dangers of using sexual enhancement substances.
Some of the solutions highlighted in the report include intensifying advocacy with truck company owners to facilitate a supportive work environment that
will support truck drivers to reduce high risk sexual behaviours is availed.
Promoting access to targeted, integrated health services including HIV and to set up long distance truck driver-friendly integrated health services providing access to integrated services, paying particular attention to location and operating hours, and the preferences of long distance truck drivers regarding service packages is another suggested solution.
Also, innovative condom distribution and drug awareness campaigns, though according to the report, current evidence shows that while attitude towards condom use is good among the truck drivers, the supply of condoms at truck stops is not predictable, thus innovative ways of condom distribution are required.
Male sexual enhancement pills are considered to be one of the most counterfeited drugs in the world.
At some point South Africans were among the biggest consumers of black market aphrodisiacs.
Most male enhancement pills found in South Africa are ordered online from websites in India, Malawi, the UK and Hong Kong, and go by explicit names such as Rock Hard, Mojo Nights, Lightning Rod, Black Mamba and Bullet Proof.
In Zimbabwe commercial sex workers, truck drivers and at times married couples employ the use of SES.
SES from as far as Asia and West Africa have over the years found their way into the country through unconventional means. Most of them are sold on the black market as doing so on an open market can lead to a tussle with the law since trading in these drugs is prohibited in the country.
Traditionally, sexual enhancing herbs have been known to be used by men. However, the rate at which the herbs are now being used has also increased.
Some young men and long distance truck drivers are now experimenting by using the pills to show off their sexual abilities.
The results of this study raise growing concern about truck drivers using psychoactive substances.
Experts say SES and alcohol abuse are often used to dull reaction times and stave off fatigue and boost concentration.
But experts warn that over the long term, continued use of high doses can be harmful to health.
Furthermore, other research shows that the use of stimulants prompts drivers to take more risks on the road and they are linked to an increased risk of falling asleep at the wheel and a subsequent road traffic collision.
Given the size and weight of trucks, this can increase the risks of serious injury and death.
“Truckers use these substances to cope with long working hours and fatigue,” noted one researcher.
“But trying to change the culture will be hard. Both road transport companies and truck drivers benefit financially from these long working hours.”
Long-haul truck drivers and their commercial sex contacts (CCs) have been associated with the spread of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) in
Zimbabwe and most other developing countries.
The drivers and their partners have been implicated in the spread of (HIV) and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs) along major transportation routes in developing countries.
Results from other studies of the truck drivers suggest that they have low HIV/STI knowledge, have higher reported rates of STIs, engage in sex with multiple regular and commercial partners while on the road, report low condom use and engage in illicit drug use.
According to World Health Organisation, three percent of around 12 000 men in the United Kingdom, Italy and Germany have used sexual enhancers in the last six months without a prescription.
It points out that while sexual enhancers are frequently associated with male users, it has become evident that female users are increasingly interested in this type of drugs to treat low sexual desire.
Some health experts say unrealistic perceptions about sexual performance and addiction to pornography are among reasons pushing some men into use of sex-enhancement drugs.
Experts note with concern that the number of both young and elderly men abusing the drugs is rising fast as they seek to turn themselves into “lions in bed”.
They say that heightened “pressure to perform in the bedroom” is forcing some men to use every trick in the book to prove their virility.
“No man wants to be dismissed as a weakling in bed because good sexual performance is perceived by society as the centre of virility. So people decide to go the extra mile to prove a point to their partners, often with disastrous results,” noted one public health expert.
— Zimpapers Syndication