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As the world marks the World AIDS Day on Monday — December 1 — New Vision highlights some of the trouble spots, with particular emphasis on the trade routes used by long-distance truck drivers. Bonney Odongo and Frederick Turyakira explore the northern and western routes. Residents of Lacor and Atiak trading centres say most of the sex workers are divorced housewives, barmaids, former camp dwellers, school dropouts and students on holiday.
Ventorina Okot, a retired teacher who runs a guest house in Lacor, says some of the sex workers are girls as young as Tony Onen, a bodaboda rider at Atiak trading centre, says many of the truck drivers are afraid of taking young girls to guest houses. As a result, they have sex in their vehicles. At Kitgum stage, Uhuru Bar and Blue Corner on Juba Road, one cannot miss the long queue of heavy vehicles parked along the road and young women talking to occupants inside.
Ocen says there are makeshift lodges that charge between sh8, and sh10, depending on the time to be spent together. In Kitgum, sex workers have devised a way of meeting the demand for low-income earners who cannot afford sh10, Such clientele includes turn boys, car washers and drug addicts.
One cannot help but wonder if the sex workers are not bothered about contracting sexually transmitted diseases, especially HIV. Okao says many people are no longer afraid of HIV because they have seen others who have lived with it for so long. Also, the impoverished nature of sex workers makes them engage in extreme behaviour just to put food on the table.
The LC3 chairperson for Ojwina division, Lira municipality, says the commercial sex trade is getting out of hand. Recently, the division was declared as having the highest prevalence of tuberculosis. For the sex workers in western Uganda, their client base does not stop at the truck drivers. They also target road construction workers, traders dealing in produce, workers on flower farms, miners and brick layers.