Scores of young Malawian girls have been queuing up to have sex with willing men in exchange for money to fund their survival, Nyasa Times has reported.
According to Chimwemwe Kaonga, Youth Commissioner for the National Aids Commission (NAC), unofficial red light streets have popped up within the country's business district of Blantyre, with women queuing for hours to earn a living.
"I did a spot check during one of the evenings in our township. I saw tens and tens of girls, some as young as 12 and 13 years, standing along the streets and drinking joints waiting for men to exchange their bodies with money.
"I was so shocked, this situation is deplorable and unacceptable," said Kaonga.
Some of the girls, many of which whom have been forced into the sex trade by their relatives, are driven by harsh economic conditions.
According to Kaonga, efforts to reduce the spread of HIV within the country had been hampered by this development.
Despite sex work being illegal in the southern African country, those who engage in prostitution have exercised their rights in recent times, with a Malawian court having ruled in their favour over a dispute last year.
According to a News24 report, sex workers from the southern city of Mwanza were rounded up and taken to a government facility for HIV testing without their consent in 2009. Their test results were also said to have been disclosed in open court.
Following a suit filed by the workers against authorities, the women were awarded damages.