- Mozambique is rapidly improving its road and rail connections with neighbouring countries, most of which have higher HIV prevalence. Government now wishes to halt the expected boost in HIV infections along these inroads.
Improved road and rail infrastructure in Mozambique, including the establishment of the Maputo, Beira and Nacala corridors and new bridges connecting to Malawi and Tanzania, is rapidly expanding the transport sector and increasingly linking the country with its neighbours.
This has not only led to a boom in truck traffic at border posts, but has also resulted in long border-crossing delays where drivers can spend up to two days waiting for documentation clearance.
It is anticipated that this trend may also lead to a spike in transactional sex at the checkpoints, and to the prevalence of multiple concurrent sexual partnerships, which is one of the primary factors in the spread of HIV in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region.
Mozambique's Ministry of Transport and Communications now wants to act against this anticipated boost in HIV spread, resting on experiences of other African countries where the AIDS epidemic could establish itself nation-wide through transport workers.
This week, preparations for a strategy to counter the new trend were made at a Ministry meeting in Maputo. Government had shipped in experts from the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), but also conferred with key players from government, private sector, civil society, trade unions, UN agencies and donors in Mozambique, to "share best practices in responding to HIV in the road transport sector."
IOM in a statement yesterday said it was currently conducting a mapping study along the transport corridors of Beira and Tete in Mozambique, looking at the behaviour of truckers and their interaction with surrounding communities, particularly in areas of high risk for HIV transmission. Preliminary findings of this study were shared at the Maputo consultation and served to "identify existing gaps and challenges of HIV response programmes, systems, structures and policies," Nosipho Theyise from IOM's Pretoria office reports.
Government now plans to join the regional Partnership on HIV and Mobility in Southern Africa (PHAMSA) programme. The programme is implemented by IOM's Office for Southern Africa and aims to reduce the HIV incidence and impact of AIDS among migrant and mobile workers and their families.
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