The fishing communities are among population groups that are most at risk of HIV infection, with some studies putting the HIV prevalence at 5 to 10 times higher than in the general population. Alcohol consumption has been identified as one of the major drivers of the sexual risk behaviour in the fishing communities. This paper investigates the relationship between alcohol consumption patterns and risky behaviour in two fishing communities on Lake Victoria.
METHODS: Face-to-face interviews were conducted among 303 men and 172 women at the fish landing sites; categorised into fishermen, traders of fish or fish products and other merchandise, and service providers such as casual labourers and waitresses in bars and hotels, including 12 female sexual workers. Stratified random sampling methodology was used to select study units. Multivariable analysis was conducted to assess independent relationship between alcohol consumption and sexual risky behaviour.
Measures of alcohol consumption included the alcohol use disorder test score (AUDIT), having gotten drunk in previous 30 days, drinking at least 2 times a week while measures for risky behaviour included engaging in transactional sex, inconsistent condom use, having sex with non-regular partner and having multiple sexual partners.
RESULTS: The level of harmful use of alcohol in the two fishing communities was quite high as 62% of the male and 52% of the female drinkers had got drunk in previous 30 days. The level of risky sexual behaviour was equally high as 63% of the men and 59% of the women had unprotected sex at last sexual event. Of the 3 occupations fishermen had the highest levels of harmful use of alcohol and risky sexual behaviour followed by service providers judging from values of most indicators. The kind of alcohol consumption variables correlated with risky sexual behaviour variables, varied by occupation.
Frequent alcohol consumption, higher AUDIT score, having got drunk, longer drinking hours and drinking any day of the week were strongly correlated with engaging in transactional sex among fishermen but fewer of the factors exhibited the same correlation among traders and service providers. Fishermen who drank 2 or more times a week were 7.9 times more likely to have had transactional sex (95% CI: 2.05-30.24) compared to those who never drank alcohol.
A similar pattern was observed for traders and service providers at the landing sites. Inconsistent condom use or none use of condoms was not significantly correlated with any of the alcohol consumption indicator variables in multivariate analysis except for day of drinking among men.
CONCLUSION: Alcohol consumption is strongly correlated with having multiple sexual partners, sex with non-regular partner and engagement in transactional sex but not with consistent condom use at fish landing sites. However, the pattern and strength of this correlation differs by occupation. HIV risk reduction programs targeting the fishing communities should address alcohol consumption, particularly alcohol consumption before sexual contact. Different occupations may need different interventions.