KENYA: New centre brings HIV services to truckers

Photo: Kristy Siegfried/PlusNews
The centre hopes to reach more than 10,000 transport workers who operate along the northern corridor
Johannesburg, 30 March 2009 (PlusNews) - "Every trucker should know how to change a tyre and put on a condom," said Anisa Abdalla, a doctor in the Kenyan port city of Mombasa, at the opening of a new "roadside wellness centre" offering HIV services to truck drivers and other transport workers.

The centre – opened on Thursday by the UN World Food Programme (WFP) in conjunction with the Kenyan Ministry of Health, UNAIDS and the Kenya Ports Authority – aims to curb the spread of HIV among truckers travelling the “northern corridor”, which stretches from Mombasa to the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Free condoms, voluntary counselling and HIV testing, and screening and treatment for sexually transmitted infections will be provided at the centre, strategically located at the entrance to the main port in Mombasa. It will operate between 3 p.m. and 10 p.m., when most drivers arrive to park their vehicles overnight.

"Truckers face numerous challenges and risks in the course of their duty, including staying away from their families for long periods, thus falling prey to numerous advances from sex workers along the highway," said Burkard Oberle, WFP country director.

A 2007 study of the sexual and treatment-seeking behaviour of East Africa's transport workers found that more than half the sex acts long-distance transport workers engaged in over a 12-month period were with female sex workers, and one-third of truckers engaged in risky sex.

Truckers at the opening said it was convenient to have the centre close to the port. "What makes most drivers lax in finding out about their [HIV] status is the distance to the health centres. Bearing in mind the limited time we have here, most of us develop some negligence towards getting tested," said Moses Mwangi.

Juma Kiyimba, another trucker, said the best thing about the centre was free condoms, which were unavailable at the cheap guesthouses where most drivers stayed in Mombasa.

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"We spend most of our time on the road, which makes most of our fellow truckers have girlfriends," he said. "When you get someone to appease your spirits, making you release all the stress you have, why not embrace her?"

The centre is expected to stay open for up to six years and reach more than 10,000 drivers and other transport workers using the northern corridor and regularly passing through Mombasa.


Theme (s): HIV/AIDS (PlusNews), Prevention - PlusNews,

[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]

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