Combating HIV/AIDS Among the Fishing Community in Kisumu

By Treezer Michelle Atieno

The National Syndemic Disease Control Council (NSDCC) has initiated a comprehensive program to address the escalating HIV infections within the fishing community of Kisumu County. This initiative is designed to equip 140 Beach Management Unit (BMU) leaders with the necessary knowledge and skills to disseminate vital information on HIV prevention, teenage pregnancies, and sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) among their peers.

According to Steve Kathaka, the Regional HIV/AIDS Coordinator for Kisumu and Siaya, the surge in infections among the fishing population is attributed to several factors, including the migratory nature of fishermen and the prevalence of transactional sex driven by readily available cash. Kathaka emphasized the gravity of the situation, highlighting that Kisumu, Siaya, Homa Bay, and Migori counties rank among the top five in HIV burden nationwide. This alarming trend poses a significant challenge to the progress made in combating the virus. Additionally, Kathaka expressed deep concern over the sharp increase in teenage pregnancies, with up to 6,000 cases reported in Kisumu County in 2022 alone.

This surge in teenage pregnancies exacerbates the HIV epidemic as both issues often share the same transmission routes. Furthermore, SGBV remains pervasive within the fishing community, particularly in Nyakach, Nyando, and Seme sub-counties, due to prolonged absences of fishermen from their families, leading to conflicts upon their return.

During the launch of the outreach program at Asat Beach, Kathaka outlined the objectives of the training, which include educating BMU leaders on various aspects of HIV prevention and care. This includes the use of Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PREP) and Post-Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP), as well as adherence to Antiretroviral Therapy (ART) and Tuberculosis (TB) medication. Kathaka underscored the challenge of ensuring adherence to treatment among the mobile fishing population and stressed the importance of carrying medication while at sea to maintain health.

In addition to addressing HIV/AIDS, the training also encompasses awareness efforts on non-communicable diseases such as cervical cancer, which is on the rise in the region. Kathaka highlighted the role of the Human papillomavirus (HPV) in cervical cancer and emphasized NSDCC’s initiative to promote Voluntary Medical Male Circumcision as a preventive measure.

These interventions aim to generate demand for healthcare services and rejuvenate efforts to combat HIV/AIDS in Kisumu County. By equipping BMU leaders with knowledge and resources, the NSDCC seeks to empower the fishing community to take proactive measures to safeguard their health and well-being.

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