Has the HIV/AIDS Epidemic Changed Sexual Behaviour of High Risk Groups in Uganda?|
Ntozi, James P.M.; Mulindwa, Innocent Najjumba; Ahimbisibwe, Fred; Ayiga, Natal & Odwee, Jonathan
Uganda, was the first country in sub-Saharan Africa to reverse its HIV/AIDS epidemic. Long distance drivers, prostitutes and barmaids have been identified as the groups that engage in risky sex, which promotes HIV transmission in Uganda and other countries across the continent. This paper investigates whether and why there were changes of sexual behaviour and practices among five risky groups in Uganda as a consequence of HIV/AIDS epidemic.
The paper is based on data generated from a survey on 'resistance to sexual behaviour change in the African AIDS epidemic', which was conducted in the districts of Kabale, Kampala and Lira in 1999. For purposes of this paper, only data from the focus group discussions with high-risk groups have been analysed. These include commercial sex workers, street children, long haul truck drivers, bar maids and adolescents in three towns of Uganda (Kabale, Kampala, Lira).
Results indicate that despite the HIV/AIDS epidemic, these groups had only changed their sexual behaviour a little, and they reported to be continuing with multiple sexual partners for a variety of reasons. The adolescents and street children were under peer pressure and a lot of sexual urge; commercial sex workers and bar maids attributed their risky behaviour to the need to survive due to the existing poverty; and the truck drivers reflected on the need for female company to reduce their stress while on the long lonely travels across Africa. Nevertheless, they are all aware and perceive people with multiple sexual partners as being highly vulnerable to contracting HIV and they all reported to have adopted condom use as an HIV preventive strategy. They also observed that married people were at a high risk of contracting HIV due to non-use of condoms in marital relationships and unfaithfulness of spouses.
Females engage in high-risk sexual relations as a means of economic survival, and perceive their acts as a strategy to improve their socio-economic well being. On the contrary, men in these high-risk categories do such acts out of pleasure and as avenues for attaining fulfilled sexual lives. The search for money among women and the constant desire for men to have sexual pleasure, which are greatly facilitated by their financial status are the forces behind reckless sexual behaviour among high-risk groups.