Sex workers at Kasensero Landing Site in Kyotera District have disclosed they are receiving cases of teenagers demanding unprotected sex.
They said this may escalate HIV/Aids infections in the area if no interventions are made to sensitise the youth.
The sex workers said they receive various categories of clients ranging from teenagers, youth and married men. However, the youth at the landing site usually demand for unprotected sex even when they are aware some of the sex workers are HIV- positive.
Five sex workers in Masanyu Zone, who talked to this reporter, acknowledged that they are HIV-positive and some are on antiretroviral (ARVs) drugs. They admit to missing their drugs and taking them late due to their ‘busy schedules’.
The sex workers asked for anonymity since they are married while others said they lied to their family members that they are into different businesses at Kasensero.
Among them was Shebah (not real name), who has spent eight months in the area and three years in the business. She testified that being new at Kasensero has earned her many clients who pay her Shs5,000 per session, enabling her collect more than Shs30, 000 per week.
“We rarely spend many months in one place since our clients get tired of us, so we keep on rotating to various places to look for new clients,” Ms Shebah said.
She explained that after separating with her husband, she joined prostitution since she lacked a source of income.
“I dropped out of school in Senior One after getting pregnant and ended up in a marriage which did not work out. I lacked knowledge of any business and resorted to prostitution,” she revealed.
Another sex worker also said in the various places where she operates, teenagers approach her but refuse to use condoms.
“Sometimes I chase them away, but there are situations where they plead so much and I accept because I also need the money,” she said
Prostitution, which is widely described as the oldest profession, is illegal in Uganda like it is the case in many African countries.
Sex workers at Kasensero also said it is a tiresome business which requires time to rest, especially during the day.
Some sex workers at the landing site are in relationships with fishermen, who only visit them during day, since they are both busy at night.
For Shebah, whenever clients reduce in Kasensero, she relocates to Kyotera Town and Entebbe.
“Whenever I go away for some days and come back later, I find many clients waiting for me,” she said .
At Masanyu Zone, next to Shebah’s rented room, was another drunken sex worker in her early 20s with a swollen stomach.
“I have spent two consecutive weeks without taking my ARVs after failing to get them from Lyantonde Hospital where I am a registered client,” she said
Latest statistics from Uganda Aids Commission show that 884 persons contract the virus weekly which translates to 126 persons per day and five persons per hour. Reports also show that HIV infections among children dropped from 26,000 in 2010 to 4,000 by the end of 2016. An estimated 1.32 million people are currently living with HIV and of these, 1,084,689 are enrolled in care and 1,081,733 were on treatment by December 2017.
Ms Stella Nanyanzi, one of the zone leaders said many young sex workers flock the area and the few who cannot manage to rent rooms end up operating in bars while others get married to fishermen.
“It is very hard to find a woman working in a bar here without participating in this business [prostitution], there are even those who hire lodges from Friday to Sunday and provide sexual services at higher prices ranging from Shs20, 000 to Shs50, 000 before relocating to other places,” Ms Nanyanzi said.
At least 200 sex workers are operating at the landing site, according to her.
Last year, President Museveni castigated men for derailing the efforts to fight against HIV/Aids scourge through shunning HIV testing and treatment.
Dr Max Kintu, the Kyotera District HIV/Aids spokesperson told Daily Monitor that together with other major stakeholders, especially Rakai Health Sciences Programme (RHSP) and Uganda Cares, they are trying to frequently engage the community of Kasensero about the advantages of protected sex, testing and taking ARVs immediately they test positive for HIV.
“We understand Kasensero accommodates a big number of people from various areas across the country. So, we always encourage them [HIV-positive sex workers] to transfer their medical forms to access medication at the nearby health centre,” Mr Kintu said, adding that Kasensero Landing Site receives enough ARVs and other types of medicine due to their population.
Kasensero is not only known for harbouring sex workers, but also the place where the first victim of HIV/Aids in Uganda was identified in 1980s.
Mr Gregory Kiganda, the only surviving son of the first victim of HIV in Uganda, Mr Gideon Kivumbi, said it is only the residents who lost their relatives to HIV/Aids who understand and fear the scourge.
Mr Francis Ssekiwunga, the Kasensero Central Ward chairperson, said apart from the dreaded disease, there is also an increase in use of narcotic drugs among fishermen.
Kasensero Landing Site, which was elevated to a level of town council, has more than 25,000 residents, with businesses such as retail shops, entertainment places and bars working for 24 hours.
Men mainly engage in fishing as the major economic activity with Nile perch as the most trapped type of fish.
Statistics at the district health department indicate that the current prevalence rate at the landing site stands at 40 per cent, five times higher than national prevalence which is at 7.3 per cent.
What the fishermen had to say
What the sex workers are saying is not true. Whenever I sleep with a prostitute I ensure that I put on a condom throughout the exercise,”
Ivan Kivumbi, 21, fisherman
It Using a condom is something the client and sex worker discuss depending on how much money his offering her .If it is good money ,the girls usually accept not to use a condom. But I am told some stubborn clients sometimes remove the condoms during sexual intercourse even when they paid little money”
Simon Matovu 45 , a lodge operator
Despite enjoying sex with some of those girls in the bar, I value my life so much and I usually put on a condom. Those who don’t use condoms are novices in this game and will die soon”
Joseph Kigozi, 24, fisherman
It doesn’t make sense to pay my money and put on a condom, it is like buying sweet and enjoy it without removing the kaveera”
Samuel, 20, fisherman