Fishermen at Lake Victoria's Kamuwunga Landing site in Masaka, want mandatory HIV testing for all fishermen. The need for a law stems from increased concerns about susceptibility and vulnerability of the fishing communities to HIV and AIDS.
A Survey carried out by the fisheries department blames frequent travel and separation from spouses and from socio-cultural norms that regulate behavior in stable communities, for driving HIV among fishing communities.
Kamuwunga landing site has a population of more than 3000 fishermen. The fishermen claim HIV counseling and testing has left no mark on the island and wants a better strategy.
Frank Mugenyi, a fisherman at Kamuwunga landing site, says the health ministry should work with the beach management units to ensure that all fishermen undergo a mandatory HIV test. He says this could be one of the best strategies to stem the rise in infections.
Vincent Ssensamba, the Kamuwunga Beach Management Unit (BMU) chairman, admits that the increased rate of HIV infections stems from uncontrolled sexual behaviors. He adds that many fishermen continue to view HIV testing as insignificant.
Ignatius Kamulegeya, the Medical Research Council Health Educator in Masaka region, says Kamuwunga Landing site, is one of the HIV high risk islands in Masaka district that need urgent intervention.
Meanwhile, a fisher folk study on HIV and AIDS is currently being carried out by the Uganda Virus Research Institute (UVRI) and supported by the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative (IAVI) and the European & Developing Countries Clinical Trials Partnership (EDCTP).
The study is intended to map the prevalence and ways in which HIV spreads throughout the fishing communities, and to evaluate the strain of HIV circulating among the fishermen.
The fishermen argue that one of the biggest setback in the fight against AIDS among fishing communities is lack of status awareness and the stigma associated with the disease.
And while the Health ministry awaits the outcome of the Fisher folk study, the fishermen argue that any form of intervention should start with the fishermen's willingness to know their HIV status.