Sarah Kabanda (not real name), is a fish monger at Kiruggu Island in Kalangala District. She is quite attractive, cheerful and appears to make friends easily. So I found it easy to engage her in a conversation. What was shocking, however, was the revelation she made about her HIV status and how she has had unprotected sex with many men.
“I believe I have had unprotected sex with about 80 men since I was diagnosed with HIV,” she says. Asked if she was aware that she was spreading the virus, Kabanda says that was none of her business. “I have nothing to worry about since I am HIV-positive. If a man wants to sleep with me, why not?” she says.
Kabanda is not sure when and how she acquired the virus: “It could be a man I met in 2006 because I discovered in the morning that he had the type of tablets I take to sustain my CD count.” Her experience when she was younger, is probably what led her to live the life she does. When she was still in school in Buggala Island, Kabanda got pregnant.
“That is where I made the mistake of my life – falling in love with a classmate. When my parents learnt about it, they were furious and could not accept me back in the family. A friend suggested I take up a job at Kachanga Landing Site where I went and got employed as a bar maid. The bar owner was kind because he provided food and accommodation.”
However, Kabanda says, the pay was quite little and many of her friends earned extra money by sleeping with the men who came to the bar. She was lured into doing the same and only stopped when she got pregnant and finally gave birth. “I continued working for six months when a friend told me about Kiruggu Island, where I am now. She told me that I could get free land to grow my own food. So we took a boat and came. We got the land, some two acres or so but it was tough getting money to pay for our basic needs. The good thing is that we were new in the place and nobody appeared to know our background. We both resorted to sleeping with the fishermen for money, which was more paying than cultivating,” she says.
Kabanda became pregnant again and it was during visits to the clinic that she was told she was infected with HIV. “I was told that I could live a normal life if I took medication. But I felt broken. The disease is incurable and I wondered when I would ever settle down and enjoy life like other people. I accepted my new condition and made up my mind to just enjoy life. “Nowadays I have another job besides sleeping with men. I trade in fish and that’s how I support my children,” she says.
Just like Kabanda, there are other people in the island living with HIV and undergoing treatment. Many men, however, continue to sleep with, especially prostitutes on different landing sites without checking for their status, or using protection.
In a consultative meeting with different leaders and stakeholders held at Kalangala District Council Hall last week, Dr Edward Muwanga, the district HIV/Aids focal person, said they had challenges among this category of people because, “people were still ignorant of how they got infected.” He added that health centres in the district only received limited HIV/Aids clients and the enrollment was not expected to increase in the near future, although many people were infected. He also said the hospitals lack CD4 machines.
And so infected people like Kabanda thrive in the business of sleeping with others for some money and more people continue to get infected. Source-DAILY MONITOR