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Peace Corps makes HIV/AIDS breakthrough

08 January 2014, 20:34

Kisumu - The Peace Corps, a prominent international service organization of the United States, reported significant strides in halting the practice of trading sex for fish, a custom that has perpetuated the spread of HIV/AIDS among local communities.

Since 2011, three Peace Corps volunteers – Dominik Mucklow of Charlotte, Michael Geilhufe of Palo Alto and Samantha Slater of Golden, Colo have helped local women find financial independence.

Working with Kenyan businesses and United States federal government partners, the volunteers have acquired boats for women involved in the fish trade and supported the development of their own fishing business.

The trio started its programmes amid revelations women who relied on the trade of fish to support their families were often pressured into prostitution with area fishermen to secure fresh fish.   

According to the volunteers, when the community members were asked how they thought they had become infected with HIV/AIDS, they said the culture of jaboya – or the practice of trading sex for fish – which is prevalent throughout the communities, could be the reason.

Subsequently, Mucklow and Geilhufe formed the “No Sex for Fish” women’s group with ten local women.

Through support from the United States President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), they acquired six fishing boats.

Slater assisted the women in obtaining loans to purchase new fishing equipment and taught them to keep financial records.

She also helped them launch three new boats in one of the busiest landings for commerce along Lake Victoria.

“The project has been very well received by the community. Both the District Commissioner and District Officer have been advocates and supporters on behalf of the project,” Slater said.

The group has generated significant interest among the development community, and with the help of fellow volunteers and PEPFAR funds, the volunteers hope the initiative will expand to other beaches along Lake Victoria.

As the preeminent international service organization of the United States, the Peace Corps sends Americans abroad to tackle the most pressing needs of people around the world.

There are currently 100 volunteers in Kenya working in the areas of education, health and community economic development. During their service in Kenya, volunteers learn to speak the local languages, including: Kiswahili, Kenyan Sign Language, Kalenjin, Kikuyu, Luo and Luyha. More than 5,155 Peace Corps volunteers have served in Kenya since the program was established in 1964.

According to UNAIDS, an estimated 1.6 million people die annually from AIDS-related causes. Together with partners like PEPFAR, the US Government initiative to help save the lives of those suffering from HIV/AIDS around the world, Peace Corps volunteers work at the grassroots level to implement effective, sustainable programs that combat the disease. Peace Corps volunteers play a key role in advancing PEPFAR’s mission through programs in approximately 60 posts worldwide.

– CAJ News


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