Examining Spread Of HIV In African Border Towns

Ruzanna Harutyunyan's picture
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IRIN/PlusNews recently examined how some long-distance truck drivers in parts of East Africa -- including Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda -- will have relationships with women in border towns and typically not use condoms during sex, putting them at an increased risk of HIV/AIDS. Brian Atuhire -- site coordinator for a Family Health International HIV program in Katuna, Uganda -- said truckers do not view these women as commercial sex workers, making it difficult to encourage condom use.

"If it is a sex worker who they meet in a bar and pay for sex once, then the truckers know they should use a condom -- to them that's obvious," Atuhire said, adding that the "challenge comes with these so-called 'wives' or 'girlfriends,'" who usually are supported financially by the truck drivers. The men "feel more of a connection" and "believe [the women] are cleaner, so they don't bother with condoms for these women," Atuhire said.

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According to voluntary counseling and testing records at the largest health center in the Ugandan border town of Katuna, the town has an HIV/AIDS prevalence of 11% -- higher than the national average of 6.4%. According to a prenatal clinic survey conducted in 2007, the town of Gatuna on the Rwandan side of the border has an HIV/AIDS prevalence of more than 6%, which almost is double the national average, according to IRIN/PlusNews. In an effort to address the issue, FHI is reaching out to low-income commercial sex workers, providing them with skills training in agriculture, commerce and information technology.

Atuhire said that competing with the truck drivers -- who give the women as much as $100 per visit -- is a challenge, as is providing information on safer-sex practices to the truck drivers. "After a while the message is routine -- the truckers have heard it all before and know everything they need to know," Atuhire said, adding that the organization "emphasize[s] that they must always use condoms with all their sexual partners, and hopefully the messages will eventually get through" (IRIN/PlusNews, 10/15).

Reprinted with permission from kaisernetwork.org. You can view the entire Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, search the archives, and sign up for email delivery at kaisernetwork.org/email . The Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report is published for kaisernetwork.org, a free service of The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. © 2007 Advisory Board Company and Kaiser Family Foundation. All rights reserved.

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