Awareness of HIV/AIDS Pandemic in Selected Fishing Communities in North Central Nigeria
This study centers on the HIV/AIDS awareness investigation
in two north central states (Kogi and Niger States) of Nigeria. A total
of 100 respondents were investigated on their level of awareness of HIV/AIDS
as it affects their fishing activities. It was discovered that a greater
percentage (about 94%) of the respondents were aware of the disease but
did not know their status. About 10% got their information from health
workers while about 6% got their information from friends and relatives.
Recommendations were given for better management of our fisher folks in
respect of the dreaded disease HIV/AIDS for a good and balanced production.
Like any other disease, HIV/AIDS tend to pose serious socio-economic
threats to the economy of any population. Although the socio-economic
effects of HIV/AIDS are now well recognized in other sectors and strategies
for mitigating the impacts of the epidemic are now being developed, the
implication of HIV/AIDS for the fisheries sector has been much slower
in coming to the attention of fishery analysts. There are many glancing
references in the media conference abstracts and elsewhere to high rates
of HIV infection in fishing communities in East Africa but few published
studies of sexual behaviour or HIV prevalence in the communities (Pickering
et al., 1997). The same is true of other areas with the most reliable
data on prevalence coming from recent studies in Thailand and Cambodia
where the large populations of the migrant deep sea fisher folks have
come to the attention of policy makers, largely through their studies
as illegal migrants. Prevalence rates of 15-20% among fishermen in the
region mark them out as a very high risk group, comparable to other sentinel
groups such as commercial sex workers, military recruits and long distance
truck drivers (Entz et al., 2000). In Africa, most studies on HIV/AIDS
in fishing communities have clustered around Lake Victoria from where
the epidemic was first identified. There are not available data on the
prevalence among people engaged in fishing-related activities (most of
whom are small scale fisher folks, making day or overnight trips on the
Lake), but studies of high risk sexual behaviour in fishing communities
and the experiences of medical research and health service project in
the area add up to suggest that fisher folks are significantly more at
risk from HIV/AIDS than other occupational groups such as the small scale
farmers that make up the majority of the rural population (Allison and
Ellis, 2000). Anecdotal evidence based on interviews with health workers
in the past puts prevalence as high as 70% in lake-shore towns like Homa
Bay Kenya (Seemungul, 2003). HIV/AIDS is identified as the leading cause
of death in adults aged between 15 and 50 in lake-shore areas in Uganda
(Anonymous, 2002) while in Kagara region, Tanzania, fisher folks are said
to be five times more likely to die of AIDS-related illnesses than farmers
(Ainsworth and Semai, 2000). National seroprevalence rates in the countries
bordering Lake Victoria region are already high, being between 10 and
15% of the 15-50 age group through the 1990s (Sahn and Stifel, 2003).
In this context, the relative estimates for fishing communities are devastating.
These high rates and the high incidences of death in fishing communities
from AIDS-related diseases have begun to come to the notice of fisheries
analysts around the world. The KLARM/World fish center Women in fisheries
symposium held in 2001 (Williams et al., 2002) was a key event
in raising global consciousness about HIV/AIDS in fishing communities.
In Nigeria, HIV/AIDS is spreading across all geo-political zones and among
all segments of the society. AIDS is indeed devastating Nigeria communities
and poses a threat to poverty reduction. That it presents a major challenge
to human development and skill shortage in all sectors becomes apparent,
wearing down the gains of economic growth and human development. The sensitization
awareness and mobilization activities have concentrated in the cities
and towns neglecting the many fisher folks, even small scale fisher folks
doing day by day trips are geographically mobile over their lifetime and
can often be classified as seasonal or long term migrants or even in some
cases, as nomadic populations (Allison and Ellis, 2001; Overa, 2001).
It is in the light of these that this study looked into the level of awareness
of HIV/AIDS in some selected fishing communities in Niger and Kogi states
in the North-central Nigeria with the objectives: to sensitize the fisher
folks on HIV/AIDS; to determine the knowledge of the diseases in the fishing
communities; to establish common diseases in the fishing communities;
to ascertain the central measures put in place.
MATERIALS AND METHODS
Area of Study
The study was conducted in two states in Northern Nigeria. The area
is made up of Niger and Kogi States. Geographically, the states are located
in the North Central Nigeria.
The choice of the two states was due to the presence of Lake Kainji (Niger
State) and the Niger-Benue confluence (Kogi State) where a lot of fishing
activities are practiced. In addition, the study area is a typical of
diverse social, economic, cultural, religious and rural setting found
in fishing communities. Both Niger and Kogi States, located in the study
area consist of predominantly fishing activities. In addition, little
farming activities are found in the area.
Sampling Procedure and Sample Size
A purposive sampling technique was used for the study in five major
fishing communities in each State. Ten major fishing communities were
selected in both States. On the whole, a total of 100 fisher folks were
sampled from the selected communities in the study area. In Niger, 10
respondents per village were selected in the following fishing communities
around Lake Kainji: Yuna, Anfani, Monai, Tada and Nasarawa, while in Kogi
State, 10 respondents were selected in each of the following fishing communities
in the Niger-Benue confluence: Ohono, Edaha, Lokoja, Angwa masara and
Jamata. A total of 100 questionnaires were administered. The respondents
chosen for the investigation were those known to be actively involved
in fishing activities in the study area.
RESULTS AND DISCUSSION
HIV/AIDS is said by experts, to be a disease of poverty and given the
close association between fisheries and poverty in many parts of the developing
world (e.g., fishing communities have been characterized as the poorest
of the poor (Bailey, 1985) there must be the cause for concern for the
fishing communities. Vulnerability of fisheries livelihood systems to
HIV/AIDS stems from the socio-economic dynamics of the fisheries trade
and lifestyle and in particular, the fishermen`s high mobility, their
long absence from home and their cash incomes which are often spent in
the trading centers on casual sex and alcohol. Vulnerability extends to
their (fishermen`s) causal or semi causal sexual partners and to their
wives at home (Henrich and Topouzis, 2000).
|| Socio-economic characteristics of the respondents
In order to understand the level of awareness of the disease of poverty
among the fisher folk, the study revealed the socio-economic characteristics
of the respondents in the study area. On the socio-economic characteristics
as shown in Table 1, on sex, 60% of the respondents
were males while 40% were females. The variation may be as a result of
the fishermen`s high mobility and their long absences from home, the statement
corroborates the observation and findings of Henrich and Topouzis (2000)
and in the study area, the women are restricted to their household that
is, they are in Purdah, which buttresses the findings of gender studies
carried out by Yahaya (1999). It can be assumed that the men are more
likely to be aware of this deadly disease. The higher number of males
in the study agrees with findings of experts that almost twice as many
men as women were aware of HIV/AIDS (Anonymous, 1998).
Age is an important factor in production and productivity, from the
study, 70% of the respondents were still in their active (reproductive)
age, that is, 21-40 years. Thirty percent were between 41-60 years. These
ages are the active and productive years in agricultural production and
they are crucial to agricultural development. Thus, they are the very
people who are vital to the economic future of the rural communities where
poverty is dominant.
The respondents cut across various among material statuses. Sixty three
percent of the respondents were married while 37% were single, divorced
and widowed. In this scenario, female subjugation and male authority over
women sexuality is socially accepted in Nigeria and reflected in violent
behaviour within marriage, women`s mobility is restricted by purdah. Men
are permitted to have more than one wife, men do not openly admit using
sex workers, it is more acceptable for them to have multiple relationships
than for women. Thirty seven percent of the respondents may not have a
fixed sex partner and therefore the need to be sensitized and mobilized
to fight against HIV/AIDS may be imperative. Majority of the respondents
had no formal education, with this finding, the awareness, through campaign
programmes, jingles and posters in the native language of the respondents
is essential, so that the message will trickle down to the target group
to bring desirable change and help in fighting the disease of poverty.
The primary occupation of the respondents is fishing activities such as
canoes and gear making, fishing, processing and marketing, while farming
The understanding of the relation and interaction between work and health is
very fundamental in agricultural development. Today, HIV/AIDS has become a generalized
epidemic in Nigeria, spreading across all geo-political zones and all segments
of the society. AIDS is indeed devastating Nigerian communities and pose a threat
to poverty reduction. The major intervention programmes have been concentrated
in the cities and state capitals, ignoring the rural areas, where about 70%
of Nigerians are believed to settle and live below the poverty line.
|| Common diseases and knowledge of HIV/AIDS in the fishing
It is believed that health is wealth producing, therefore, in some of the selected
fishing communities chosen for the study, the common diseases prevalent (Table
2) are as follows: 80% of the respondents testified to the attack of malaria,
3% for river blindness, 72% for guinea worm infection, 4% for Onchocerciasis
infection and 6% for other types of diseases. Various health programmes for
the eradication of these diseases had not been well extended to fishing communities
in the past, therefore, Nigeria supports the public private partnership in the
fight against AIDS, the struggle is to meet the Millennium Development Goals
(MDG) of reducing poverty and promoting human dignity by the year 2015, but
the likelihood of Nigeria meeting the goal is doubtful (UNDP, 2004). Nigeria`s
experience in eradicating extreme poverty and hunger, achieving universal primary
education, gender equality and empowerment of women, reducing childhood mortality,
improving maternal health and combating HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases,
shows that, going at its present pace, the country is not likely to meet the
MDGs, particularly in the face of the AIDS onslaught.
On the awareness of HIV/AIDS, the study of Yahaya (2000) revealed that
majority (83%) of the people of Bida Emirate of Niger State did not know
what HIV/AIDS was all about and 12% could state means of transmission
of sexually transmitted disease (STD) including HIV/AIDS. The findings
from fishing communities followed the trend of the result obtained by
Yahaya (2000). Ninty four percent of the respondents at one time or the
other had heard about the disease but did not know what HIV/AIDS was all
about. From this study, it was obtained that 80% was aware of HIV/AIDS
through radio broadcast, although radio broadcast has wide coverage; there
is tendency of misunderstanding the information due to different tribes
and languages in the fishing communities. Again the irregularity of power
supply hampers consistent flow of information through radio and television
transmission. Consequently, relying on these two media as a way of creating
awareness to fisher folks cannot therefore produce the desired results.
A communication campaign programme should be organized and executed by
the Center for Communication and Reproductive Health Services for reproductive
health education of the inhabitants of the fishing communities using posters,
handbills and stickers. In addition to these, jingles, drama, folk music
performance and outreach programmes should be used in sensizitising in
different communities. There should be replicate of Yahaya (2003), the
Integrated Multi-media Campaign for HIV/AIDS awareness and Sexuality Information
Education and Communication in Bida Emirate Council of Niger State revealed
100% awareness of HIV/AIDS epidemic as against 83% non awareness in the
|| Awareness and Seminar/Workshop programme attended in the
The critical nature of adolescent stage in the life of any individual
and global concern regarding the recent scourge of HIV/AIDS have brought
to the fore the urgent need to deal with adolescent without delay because
of the migratory tendency of the fisher folks. On the mode of transmission,
50 and 20% of the respondents knew that the disease can be contacted through
sex and blood transfusion respectively. Only 6% admitted they don`t know
the mode of transmission. The findings revealed the inherent in reckless
social life in the face of unavailable socialization process which has
taken various forms and dimension in most recent times. The earlier the
people understood the mode of transmission, the better for the communities
and it will go a long way to play safe since prevention is better than
cure. In the most affected areas, HIV/AIDS is having severe negative impacts
on food production system, the national economy and the structure of society
(Barnett and Whiteside, 2002), thus the epidemic has had a profound effect
on the so-called sexually active population, aged 15-50 years and active
age for agricultural production. This result buttressed the above that
all people are prone to the attack of the disease, 70% believed that victims
could be infants, adults and old people (Table 3). Like
any other disease, majority believed that the infection of any disease
kills gradually and it may take longer time before the complete breakdown
of the victims. It is the realization of the aforementioned that urgent
mobilization, information and education be organized in the fishing communities
to reduce the burden of HIV/AIDS on national economics, loss of labor
has also been highlighted as one of the main economic impacts (Gillespie,
1989, Lisk, 2002) and guarding against the prediction of total number
of lost workdays in the agricultural sector because of HIV/AIDS by year
2020 (FAO, 2002).
Almost all Nigerian cities have lectures, seminars and workshops on HIV/AIDS,
the activities of John Hopkins University`s center for Communication Programme
(JHU/CCP) had consciously and intentionally educated Nigerians through
music (Yahaya, 2003) unfortunately fishing communities have not benefited
much. Ninty five percent of the sampled population had not attended any
organized seminar/workshop on HIV/AIDS. Considering the alarming rate
in which the disease is ravaging the people, advocacy workshops should
be organized for District Heads, fisher folks and youths in the various
fishing communities. The workshops should emphasize on the imperatives
for HIV/AIDS prevention and the need to carry along the adolescent population
in the struggle against the pandemic being the most vulnerable group given
all sorts of experimentations (sexual, drug, gangsterism) inherent in
that stage of human development (Table 3).
On the control of HIV/AIDS, 48% of the sampled population said they did
not know. This could be attributed to the source of awareness of sexual
menace. Bulyuguti et al. (1995) states the majority of HIV/AIDS-related
projects targeted at fisher folks education and awareness raising, early
HIV/AIDS prevention schemes in fishing villages were initiatives of health
departments and were done independently of any fisheries planning, therefore,
related health workers should be deployed to these areas to build knowledge
and educate the people to have correct understanding in the fight against
HIV/AIDS and also reduction in poverty in fishing communities especially
This study has highlighted some of the common diseases and also determined
the level of awareness of HIV/AIDS pandemic in some selected fishing communities
in the North Central zone of Nigeria. It is time to ensure that the impact
of HIV/AIDS is properly taken into account in the attempts of government,
donor organization and NGOs to manage fisheries and assist fisher folks
to find ways out of poverty and vulnerability. It is time to help those
in fishing communities who are already living with HIV/AIDS to continue
to enjoy productive and dignified lives.
However, the following recommendations will assist the fishing communities
to fight against health related problems, especially HIV/AIDS;
||Provision of health facilities and health personnel in fishing communities.
||The establishments of HIV/AIDS support Organization in enlightening
the people on a broad-based community approach.
||Enlightenment campaigns on HIV/AIDS and education programme on safe
sex and behavior change remain key responses to the epidemic.
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