Sex-for-Fish Practice in Kenyan Fishing Communities Contributing to Spread of HIV
A practice within some Kenyan fishing communities in which young female fish sellers develop sexual relationships with fishermen and middlemen in exchange for fish is exposing a new generation to HIV, IRIN/PlusNews reports. According to statistics from the United Nation's Food and Agriculture Organization, HIV prevalence among Kenyans in the fishing industry was 30.5% in 2006.
IRIN/PlusNews reports that the practice, known as jaboya, often is the only way for fish traders to make a living. In addition, competition for a "catch that is often less than plentiful means offering their own bodies is no longer enough, so desperate traders have now resorted to making available their younger" female relatives -- many of whom are younger than age 18 -- to "ensure they have an edge," according to IRIN/PlusNews.
Charles Okal -- acting provincial medical officer for Nyanza Province, which has an HIV prevalence of 15.3% -- said the main cause of the new trend in jaboya is increased poverty. In addition, young girls "are lured into this kind of business to make quick money to fit into urban life," Okal said. He added that the government is planning to establish HIV/AIDS programs with local youth groups to target young girls involved in the sex-for-fish trade. In addition, Kenya's Centre for the Study of Adolescence reports that Nyanza has one of the highest teen pregnancy rates in the country and that girls in the province begin sexual activity earlier than their counterparts in other regions. According to CSA, the main reasons for this include poverty and lack of access to comprehensive sex education, including information about HIV/AIDS.
Sabina Achieng -- a fish trader and official at the Dunga Fishermen and Women Association, a nongovernmental organization that is working to end the practice -- said, "We have lost many of our people to HIV and it is sad to see many of us engage in such risky sexual behaviors," adding, "It is true that these things happen -- we are now partnering with other like-minded organizations to create awareness."
According to IRIN/PlusNews, the group is working with another local NGO, OSIENALA (Friends of Lake Victoria) and Radio Nam Lolwe (Radio Lake Victoria), a local broadcaster, to create media messages targeting the fishing community in Nyanza. The United Kingdom-based medical organization Merlin also is working with beach communities to raise HIV awareness through local music, dance and drama competitions (IRIN/PlusNews, 9/12).