via New Vision, by Joyce Nyakato

clipNew research published in The Lancet, an international medical journal, has revealed that commercial sex workers in Uganda have one of the highest rates of HIV infections in the world.

Some 99,878 female sex workers in 50 countries (14 in Asia, four in Eastern Europe, 11 in Latin America and the Caribbean, one in the Middle East and 20 in Africa), were subjects in the study conducted between January 1, 2007 and June 25, 2011. Results of the study, which was led by Dr. Stefan Baral of the US-based John Hopkins School of Public Health, were released on Thursday.

The study, which assessed the burden of HIV compared to that of other women of reproductive age, found that the burden is disproportionately high and concluded that there is an urgent need to scale up access to quality HIV prevention programs for sex workers.

State minister for ethics and integrity Fr. Simon Lokodo agrees that like all Ugandans, sex workers have a right to HIV treatment and attention.

“However, giving them the leeway to operate as a business is too much to ask from the Government,” he said.

The four-year survey funded by the World Bank and the United Nations Population Fund ranked Uganda as one of the countries where sex workers had a higher HIV prevalence than other women.

Women who sell sex came sixth among the 20 African countries after Malawi, Zimbabwe, South Africa, Kenya and Benin.

An average of four sex workers in ten will have HIV.

This rate is about five times more than other women of reproductive age, who have 7.7% prevalence, according to the recent AIDS indicator survey released by the Ministry of Health last week.

In addition, the likelihood of new HIV infections among sex workers stands at 15%.

“These findings suggest an urgent need to scale up access to quality HIV prevention services among female sex workers because of their heightened burden of disease and the likelihood of onward transmission through the high number of sexual partners as clients,” Stefan wrote.

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