According to the UNAIDS an estimated 1.4 million Tanzanians are living with HIV, with Dar es Salaam being among 10 top African cities with high prevalence rate of HIV of about 6.9 per cent.
The port is a trade gateway for landlocked states including Zambia, Rwanda, Malawi, Burundi and Uganda, as well as the eastern region of Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). In 2014 the port handled 14.4 tonnes of cargo and projects to reach 18 million tonnes this year, according to government authorities. The port currently operates 24 hours a day. Further projections have it that the capacity can reach to 28 million tonnes a year by 2020.
The Sexual web between local populations, seafaring personnel, truck drivers and commercial sex workers create a network of high risk sexual behaviour at the Dar es Salaam port. Launching the study on health vulnerabilities of mobile populations and affected communities, the Tanzania Commission for Aids (TACAIDS), Monitoring and Evaluation Director, Dr Gerome Kamwela, said that swift measures were needed to address the situation before it impacts on the port efficiency.
“Instead of boosting port efficiency to enhance its contribution to the economy, substantial amount of resources will be used to care for port workers that already are HIV/AIDS victims,” he said adding that the cost of medicine and other health services was very high. The study was commissioned by the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) in collaboration with TACAIDS and the National Institute for Medical Research (NIMR).
He said the study will thus provide important platform for taking the appropriate measures to address the situation to save the manpower of the Dar es Salaam port which is one of the key contributors of revenues to the national coffer.
Also he said the study findings will be used as base for HIV and AIDS interventions for migrant populations in ports as well as associated transport corridors. The study unveiled that key populations working around the port have a higher risk of contracting HIV/AIDS and Sexual Transmission Infections (STDs) due to the complexities of sexual networks within their environment.
“Migrants due to the nature of mobility face serious health challenges in both disease prevention and accessing health care services,” the study stated. The study found evidence to indicate a concentration of disease transmission within and between populations who worked and passed through the port.
By SEBASTIAN MRINDOKO, The New Times