Widening HIV testing services for the fisher folk
Counties bordering Lake Victoria have the highest adult HIV prevalence in Kenya. Within the region, fisherfolk (FF) who catch, sell, or process fish and their spouses are considered a priority population in HIV transmission. The many intertwined and complex constants that characterize this population have proven a hard nut to crack in the quest to eradicate the spread of HIV and AIDS among the Fisherfolk.
In a bid to facilitate Fisher folk access HIV testing services and linkage to care, the government through National AIDS Control Council (NACC) in partnership with
LVCT-Health as the implementing partner conducted three days of voluntary and free HIV education and mass testing along the beaches in Nyatike Sub-County in Migori county.
The exercise was necessary and timely since it aimed to gain a shared understanding of the HIV vulnerabilities affecting Fisher folk drivers and their clients. Those who depend on the lake as a source of livelihood, ranging from fishermen and fishmongers and the surrounding community are constantly at a high risk of contracting HIV/AIDS due to increased social interactions around the beaches, booming business and the availability of disposable incomes.
An elaborate HIV education and sensitization was conducted to the Beach Management Unit leaders so that they would mobilize the people from the villages to turn up in large numbers and take part in the exercise which entailed sensitization on HIV/AIDS and condom use.
From the three days activity, 1,209 individuals were tested for HIV with 114 being tested for the first time.
The data collected from the exercise reveals that 10 samples tested positive for HIV. The 10 cases were linked to care and treatment at various health care facilities within their proximity. More men turned up for the exercise than their female counterparts with 610 males being tested against 599 females.
The data, according to NACC and LVCT-Health, will inform future policies in regard to HIV prevention and care especially in the Fisherfolk that has been a driver in the spread of HIV and AIDS.
By Collins Kayubs