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The commercial sex industry is booming along the border between Uganda and Sudan following a recent increase in jobs and commercial trucking, according to a recently released study about HIV/AIDS in the region, Uganda's Monitor reports.
The National Committee on AIDS in Emergency Settings, the International Organization for Migration and the Uganda AIDS Commission, with support from UNAIDS, identified locations with high commercial sex traffic between September 2007 and January 2008. The project was part of the country's National Strategic Plan for HIV/AIDS activities.
The study identified locations in Uganda and Sudan where the sex trade is increasing. The spots in Uganda are Arua Park in Kampala, Atiako, Bibia, Bweyale, Gulu, Karuma, Masindi, Migyera and Nakasongola. The two sites studied in southern Sudan are Juba and Nimule, the Monitor reports. According to study consultant Alan Ferguson, commercial sex work is well-established on the Kampala-Juba highway.
There are about 500 sex workers at each of the studied locations, Ferguson said, adding that the majority of workers migrate between the two countries depending on where they can earn more money. Those involved in the areas' commercial sex trade include bar and hotel attendants, children from child-headed families, women widowed by conflicts and teachers, the Monitor reports.
Joyce Namulondo, focal officer for AIDS in Emergencies at UAC, said one of the teachers interviewed for the study said she makes 1.5 million shillings monthly, or about $900, as a sex worker. This compares with about 130,000 shillings, or $77, monthly as a primary teacher in Uganda. According to the Monitor, sex workers come to the border route as new job and trade opportunities become available, and the flow of human and truck traffic on the highway increases.
Namulondo said low condom use along the route is disconcerting, adding that there are reports of Ugandan girls involved in the sex trade in Sudan being prohibited from using condoms. "We were told that people there have shunned condom use because they want to produce more children and increase the population of the country," she said.
Ferguson said that the majority of people who pay for sex are truck drivers. The study also identified police officers, fuel dealers, health workers, soldiers, teachers and business representatives as some of the people who buy sex along the route. The study found that 70.7% of truck drivers said they always use condoms with sex workers, 68.4% of transactions reported by sex workers involved condom use, and 16.4% of sex workers reported always using condoms. Ferguson also said that in some places, sex workers are paid about 50,000 shillings, or about $29, while in other more poverty-stricken locations, they receive as little as 2,500 shillings, or about $1.50, for unprotected sex.
Namirembe Bitamazire, Uganda's minister of Education and Sports, said that she was not aware that sex work among teachers has become an issue. "I have worked in the education sector for a long time, but I have never heard anything of that sort." Ministry spokesperson Aggrey Kibenge also said that he had not heard about the issue but that a recent study conducted in both Uganda and Malawi indicated that HIV/AIDS prevalence among teachers was as high as 30%. Sex work was not officially cited as a reason for the study's findings, the Monitor reports (Nafula, Monitor, 4/28).
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