HIV/AIDS cases are increasing among women and girls involved in commercial sex work in Kampala, Uganda, HIV/AIDS advocates said recently, Uganda's Monitor reports.
Robert Kanwagi -- coordinator of the Breaking the Ice Project, which is being implemented by the group Reproductive Health Uganda in Kampala -- said a recent survey found that HIV prevalence among the sex workers in the city was as high as 47.2%, compared with the national prevalence of 6.7%. The survey also found that HIV prevalence is as high as 60% among sex workers ages 25 to 29 and that 59.6% of sex workers were found to have other sexually transmitted infections, such as syphilis and gonorrhea.
Kanwagi, who was speaking at a training workshop on HIV and gender issues, said poverty is the primary reason that women become commercial sex workers. He also said that sex workers lack the authority to negotiate safer sex and that those who offer unprotected sex are paid more money than those who use condoms. The Breaking the Ice Project was launched in July 2007 to expand access to HIV/AIDS services among sex workers in Kampala.
RHU National Program Manager Peter Ibembe said HIV/AIDS is spreading among women and girls because of social, economic and cultural factors that deny them access to HIV prevention and treatment services. "A poor woman or girl may not be able to deny a man sex because she needs money," he said, adding, "Because of their lack of decision-making power in matters of sex, as well as other factors like poverty, they become more exposed to the risk of becoming infected than men" (Nafula, Monitor, 5/9).