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Health

How ‘Mosquitoes Transmit HIV’ in Uganda Fishing Communities

kenya_hiv4_7fe633dfa09d64c287639530e4f2fc92070a0b63_s6_c30_899907509

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The virus has been most disastrous in Uganda’s fishing communities where studies have placed the infection rate at 35%, compared to the national average rate which stands at 7.3%.

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A recent study conducted by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) around fishing communities in central, western and northern Uganda, unearthed a number of practices, behaviors and intriguing perceptions that are believed to have helped the scourge grip harder on the fisher folk.

Hit hard by the HIV, the study revealed, the fisher folk had developed a fatalistic careless approach towards life, with numerous respondents expressing indifference and wondering why HIV/AIDS was such a big deal.

“They consider it a disease just like any other. Some participants explained that considering the risks involved when fishing in deep waters, the chances of dying there were more than dying from AIDS,” it read.

The report which was launched on Wednesday at Golf course Hotel in Kampala, unveiled a lot of disregard to condom use (about 75%), early childhood sex, extensive promiscuity, alcohol abuse and prostitution as finely characterizing the communities.

Most captivating however, was the sheer lack of comprehensive knowledge about the killer HIV, with some respondents suggesting that it is actually spread through mosquito bites.

The report stated, “Common misconceptions included the idea that all HIV-infected people always appear ill and the belief that the virus can be transmitted through mosquito bites, by sharing food and with someone who is infected, or by witchcraft or other supernatural means.”

Other myths unearthed in the study included the misconception that the “fish harvest” is better after having sex with particular females. Some participants also believed that HIV is a curse or as a result of witchcraft.

It also emerged that most women in the communities were having their first intercourse below the age of 15, and only 17% reported to have used condoms at the first sexual intercourse.

Speaking to chimpreports at the report launch, IOM’s Mrs Bernadette Ssebaduka who headed the research, said her team encountered limited access to health services in these communities.

Small health units, in some fishing villages, she said were as distant as 25 kilometers away, complicating residents’ ability to test for the virus and access treatment.

She said that government had generally not done enough in addressing the HIV challenge in this section of the populace.

“We all know that the first case of HIV was reported at a landing site in Kasensero. The fact that HIV prevalence is higher in these communities is evidence that government has some how abandoned these people.”

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