IOM Uganda Promotes HIV/AIDS Prevention among Mobile Populations
GENEVA, Switzerland, January 21, 2014/African Press Organization (APO)/ -- IOM is distributing medical and laboratory equipment to different health clinics strategically located in HIV hot-spots in Uganda to tackle the high prevalence of HIV/AIDS along major transport corridors in the country.
“HIV/AIDS is still stigmatized in Uganda and especially in my community, a fishing community,” says Salongo Dennis Lukyamuzi, a fisherman from the village of Kasensero along the shores of Lake Victoria. Kasensero, like many fishing villages, has amongst the highest prevalence rates of HIV in Uganda, with up to 20 per cent of the population carrying the virus.
“Mobility is a significant risk to drive new HIV infection not only in Uganda, but also in the East African region,” said Simon Wejuli, IOM Health Project Officer in Uganda. “IOM's response is tailored to this reality.”
The main clients of the health clinics are truck drivers, traders, fishermen and female sex workers, all of whom are identified as most at risk populations. The medical and laboratory equipment distributed by IOM will facilitate and improve services in HIV counselling and testing and the treatment of other common sexually transmitted infections such as syphilis, as well as other infections such as tuberculosis and malaria.
The mobile populations are mainly characterized by high risk behaviours such as high rates of sexual relations, low uptake of condom use and low rates of health service seeking behaviour.
“We are working to dispel the idea that having sex with condoms is boring,” stressed Adong Sara, a peer educator from Gulu, in Northern Uganda.
Along the Southern Sudan-Uganda Highway, IOM has trained 120 sex workers as peer educators to act as agents of behaviour change in selected hotspots that have high HIV prevalence.
IOM has also trained since January last year 350 peer educators and distributed over 500,000 condoms, as well as over 5,000 units of information/education and communication materials. The organization also tested over 13,000 people for HIV. Female sex workers have been also identified and trained to act as role models of behaviour change, as well as to provide HIV prevention messaging among their fellow peers and host communities.
IOM works in close partnership with local government in implementing the “Health Promotion in Migrant/Mobile Populations” project funded by the Partnership on Health and Mobility in East and South Africa (PHAMESA). IOM works closely with the Uganda AIDS Commission, the Ministry of Works and Transport and the Ministry of Health.