Research Examines Role of Truck Drivers in HIV/AIDS Along Routes in Africa
Research presented this week at the XVII International AIDS Conference in Mexico City examined the role of truck drivers in the spread of HIV/AIDS in Africa, IRIN/Plus News reports.
Alan Ferguson, a researcher at Constella Futures, and colleagues conducted a study that examined HIV vulnerability along the transport corridor linking Kenya's port city of Mombasa to Kampala, Uganda. Along this route, the researchers found that truckers accounted for 30% of the clients of female commercial sex workers. In a similar study, conducted along the route from Kampala to Juba, Sudan, researchers found that truck drivers accounted for 28% of clients of commercial sex workers and that other clients came from a broad range of occupations.
According to the Constella Futures study, about 2,400 trucks park overnight between Mombasa and the Ugandan border at 39 highway stops, which attract approximately 5,600 commercial sex workers. In addition, studies have found that many road transportation workers engage in unprotected sex, IRIN/Plus News reports.
According to Ferguson, HIV/AIDS awareness programs need to "go beyond" truckers and involve communities surrounding highway stops. The HIV/AIDS Corridor Project -- a regional initiative supported by UNAIDS, the World Bank and USAID -- targets people using the highway between Abidjan, Cote D'Ivoire, and Lagos, Nigeria. Justin Koffi, executive director of the project, said that West African communities surrounding border posts are just as vulnerable to HIV as truck drivers and commercial sex workers. Koffi added that studies have found that HIV prevalence in border communities is two times higher than national averages, but awareness programs remain weak in these regions. Asif Altaf, HIV/AIDS project coordinator for the International Transport Workers' Federation, added that prevention programs need to address the families of truck drivers, "otherwise the cycle will continue."
United Nations Special Envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa Elizabeth Mataka warns against blaming truck drivers for the spread of HIV, noting that poor working conditions make drivers vulnerable. Altaf added that truck drivers receive low wages and work alone for long periods of time away from home. In addition, drivers often experience long delays while waiting for customs to clear goods at national borders. According to Altaf, in such instances sex can be a means of coping (IRIN/Plus News, 8/4).
Kaisernetwork.org is the official webcaster of the XVII International AIDS Conference in Mexico City. Click here to sign up for your Daily Update e-mail during the conference.