The Integrated Biological and Behavioural HIV Surveillance Survey (IBBS) among fishermen along the Abidjan-Lagos Corridor has revealed that HIV prevalence among fishermen in all five corridor countries is relatively higher than the national average in the general population among adults aged 15-49 years.
The five countries along the corridor are Nigeria, Benin, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana and Togo.
The ALCO, an initiative of the five coastal African countries, was established in 2002 to prevent, treat, care for and support the war against HIV/AIDS, and also facilitate trade and transport relations in line with the protocols of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).
The validated IBBSS report findings among the communities along the corridor was presented yesterday during the dissemination meeting organised by the National Agency for the Control of AIDS (NACA), ALCO and other partners in Abuja.
The report said the results of the study confirmed the specific vulnerability of fishermen, underlining the need for countries to pay special attention to this population.
“They will serve as a basis for confirming, reinforcing or redirecting interventions. The analysis of the results shows that most of the behavioural surveillance indicators are not good.
“Exposure to HIV risk among fishermen is a concern and requires planning and strengthening of targeted interventions for this sub-population,” it said.
Findings include that the majority of respondents did not use a condom the last time they had sex, regardless of the type of partner, and especially with partners at higher risk for HIV and other STIs.
Also regardless of the country of residence or gender, the reasons for not using HIV testing, prevention and treatment services for a large majority of respondents is the fear of being stigmatized by health staff or neighbours.
ALCO Programme coordinator, Dr Abdel-Aziz Fagbemi, said ALCO has contributed to the reduction of HIV prevalence along the corridor.
“In 2005 the prevalence within sex workers was about 25 but currently it is about 7 percent along the corridor,” he said.
Daniel Ndukwe, Lead, Prevention and Social Behaviour Change Communication, NACA and national response, said the survey has provided evidence that the fishermen communities have high prevalence of HIV transmission.
He said, “So it is telling us what we should focus on as a country because if there is any population group that is left out, the implications is that the entire population is still not free. Because one population has a way of mingling with another.”
He said the study has also provided evidence towards achieving the NACA director general‘s agenda of epidemic control and the World AIDS Day theme of ensuring everyone has equal opportunity to HIV prevention and treatment services.