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HIV and syphilis prevalence and associated risk factors among fishing communities of Lake Victoria, Uganda


Objectives Recent publications suggest that fishing populations may be highly affected by the HIV epidemic. However, accurate data are scarce. The authors determined HIV and syphilis prevalence and associated risk factors in a fishing population of Lake Victoria in Uganda.

Methods 10 188 volunteers aged ≥13 years from a census carried out in five fishing communities between February and August 2009 were invited to attend central study clinics established in each community. After informed consent, 2005 randomly selected volunteers responded to socio-demographic and risk assessment questions, provided blood for HIV testing and 1618 volunteers were also tested for syphilis. Risk factors were analysed using logistic regression.

Results HIV and active syphilis (rapid plasma reagin titre ≥1:8) prevalences were 28.8% (95% CI 26.8 to 30.8) and 4.3% (95% CI 3.3 to 5.4), respectively, and high risk sexual behaviour was frequently reported. HIV prevalence was independently associated with female sex, increasing age, occupation (highest in fishermen), relationship to household head, self-reported genital sores and knowledge of an HIV infected partner. Alcohol consumption, syphilis and sexually transmitted infections (STIs) reported by health workers were associated with HIV in women, and genital discharge and inconsistent condom use in men. Syphilis prevalence was independently associated with age and alcohol consumption in women, and recent genital sores and sex under the influence of drugs in men.

Conclusion This fishing population characterised by a very high HIV prevalence, high syphilis prevalence and frequently reported sexual risk behaviours, urgently needs improved STI services and targeted behavioural interventions.

  • HIV
  • syphilis
  • risk factors
  • fishing communities
  • Uganda
  • Africa
  • prevalence

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