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ICAP holds first results dissemination meeting on the impact of HIV amongst fisherfolks in Sierra Leone

ICAP at Columbia University on Friday, September 22, 2022, held a preliminary result dissemination meeting on mitigating the impact of HIV among fisherfolk in Sierra Leone. 

ICAP together with their partners conducted an extensive research and study on the prevalence of HIV infection amongst fisher-folks in Tombo and Goderich respectively. 

Sierra Leone as a country has one of the richest fisheries in west Africa. It is believed that the fisheries industry in the country is a source of over 500,000 livelihoods, thus the current HIV prevalence in the industry is unknown. The importance of ICAP’s research is to assess HIV knowledge, needs, and preferences for health and HIV services amongst fisherfolk and fishing communities in Sierra Leone. 

“The findings of this formative evaluation will contribute to the design of tailored HIV prevention, testing care, and treatment models for fisherfolks in Sierra Leone,” said Abdul Raheem Yakuba, Senior Portfolio, and Programs Manager ICAP.

In their presentation, Haja Yeroh Bah and Oliver Eleeza articulated some of the challenges facing fisherfolks with regard to HIV infection in the fisheries industry, and access to healthcare is perceived to be a major concern. 

“What makes it easy for us when we need health care service is the fact that we have community pharmacies close by that we go to when we have a minor ailment. Many of us are not happy with the service the health facility provides so we prefer visiting the pharmacies or buying from drug peddlers,” said a fisherman residing in Goderich. 

Another female fishmonger highlighted reasons why they avoid going to healthcare facilities.

“The reason why we prefer going to the pharmacies when we get sick is that there is no waste of time; they treat you as quickly as possible,” said the fishmonger in Goderich. 

The study shows that there is a lack of proper information dissemination and understanding about HIV infection amongst fisherfolk in the country.

Responding to the findings presented by ICAP, the Director General of the National AIDS Secretariat admitted that fisherfolks appear to have been left out in national response programs for HIV and AIDS, but he noted that this is a great opportunity for a complete overhaul and for the secretariat to design program that is tailored to reach fisherfolks. 

“This study is very good. It is like an eye-opener. The statistics presented are very key for us. It is like we need to take real actions because it appears as if it’s within the National Response for HIV and AIDS,” Abdul Rahman Sesay, Director General National AIDS Secretariat. 

Lastly, he admits that fisherfolks are being left out, but nevertheless, this is an opportunity to design programs tailored just for them.