At Uganda’s fish landing sites, almost everything is in short supply except alcohol and prepaid sex.
On Buvuma islands, the largest on Lake Victoria, sex workers from Kampala rent lodges for almost a month to offer services to fishermen. According to Buvuma MP Robert Migadde, this trend has perpetuated migration of men from neighboring islands to ‘utilize these services.’
“Some neighboring islands are occupied by men only and these often rent these sex workers for the night or day when they come over to Buvuma. For the sex worker, a ‘night’s duty’ costs between Shs 5,000 to 7,000 with a condom and Shs 20,000 without a condom,” Migadde said in Kampala recently.
However, condom use is very low, with people resorting to use kavera (polythene bags) fitted with rubber bands (locally called saida).
“Saida is a cheap substitute for condoms which are hardly available. For them, it is a matter of buying rubber bands and small transparent polythene bags that cost about Shs 100,” said Buikwe South MP Lulume Bayigga.
He added that the trend is most prevalent on islands of Katosi in Mukono, Ssenyi and Kiyindi in Buikwe district. These revelations were made during the launch of the fishing community policy brief organised by the Knowledge management and communications building initiative (KMCC) in Kampala.
The brief calls for a coordinated effort of all stakeholders to develop a national framework to guide HIV prevention, care and treatment in fishing communities, some of which have prevalence rates as high as 50 per cent. Uganda has about 750 fishing villages with approximately two million people. Dr Peter Mudiope, the head of HIV prevention at Uganda Aids Commission said the fishing community accounts for about 22.5 per cent of the country’s 137,000 new HIV infections.
However, the mobility of the fishermen who take the fish to markets makes it difficult to determine the exact number of people having HIV. Some men also engage in transactional sexual relationships with female traders in fishing communities. In a 2012 study by the Uganda Fisheries and Fish conservation Association (UFFCA) in Kasese, Rubirizi, Kamwenge and Rukungiri districts, payment for transactional sex took various forms including fish, shoes and alcohol.
Moreover, the overall mean age for the first sexual debut was 13 years and cross generational sexual relationships were reported to be frequent, with some women reportedly having 12 sexual partners.
“We need to establish mobile boat clinics to serve as accessible health centers for the fishermen so that access to HIV services is made widely available,” said Fred Badda, the MP for Bujumba in Kalalanga district.
Dr Lulume called for a multi-sectoral approach to increase awareness about the consequences of risky behaviour, promote quality services and economically empower the fishing community.
Source : The Observer