In Mahyoro sub-county on the shores of Lake George in Kasese district, fishermen do not only fish for fish but also for teenage girls.
The 25-minute drive through the narrow, winding road opens up to a destitute society. Children in threadbare clothes, flimsy mud-and-wattle houses and a ground littered with sachets of Tycoon and Royal Gin spirits.
At the lake shores, an arsenal of canoes and nets sit still save for a few wind gusts that disturb their tranquillity. Within a few minutes, though, a stampede arises. Women and girls armed with basins dashing for the best catch of fish.
Norbert Bamutura, a fisherman and resident of the area, says women play an important role in fish processing and marketing. Among the women jostling for the harvest is 18-year-old Beatrice K., a P.7 pupil. Holding her hair back and wearing blue sandals and a cream blouse, she is easily recognised.
When she is not at school, she helps her mother get fish that she sells in Kasese market. But this comes at a heavy price - that of sleeping with the fishermen offering the best fish at a cheap price.
"I have slept with two men and we sometimes share these men with other women because everyone wants fish," she says in a low and shy monotone whilst peering at the dusty floor.
Sharing sex; non-condom negotiations:
Sex among the fishing communities is used as a conduit to getting rich and unfortunately young girls like Beatrice have been incorporated into the 'trade.' Beatrice shares men with women old enough to be her mother.
In a survey by the Uganda Fisheries and Fish Conservation Association (UFFCA) on the impact on HIV/Aids on fishing communities between February and March this year, it was discovered sex is shared, with as many as seven sexual partners per woman.
The 468 respondents were drawn from Kahendero, Mahyoro, Hamukungu, Kasenyi, Katwe-Kabatooro, Kayanja, Rwenshama and Katunguru fishing villages. In all these villages, the overall mean age for the first sexual encounter for girls is 13 years although some have had their first sexual partner as young as 11.
Cross-generational sexual relationships were reported to be frequent and contributed to HIV transmission between older men and younger females. Young girls' ability to negotiate condom use is compromised by age and economic disparities.
"Some of the reasons given for non-condom use include lack of time, compromised sexual pleasure for both parties, no receptacle for disposal and their non-acceptability in ritual sex," reads the report.
It was also reported that the younger a woman is at first sex, the more likely the sex is forced and yet there is lack of post-exposure prophylaxis for the victims at the nearest health facilities.
The communities around Lake George are socially and geographically isolated. After fishing, which is mostly done in the morning, there is not much to do. Hence, men and women spend most of the time gambling, drinking alcohol and idling. Sexual encounters are a way to pass time which leads to HIV transmission.
"Most HIV/Aids programmes have left out these fishing communities or not matched their lifestyle, which has left them more vulnerable to HIV," Seremos Kamuturaki, UFFCA's Executive Director said.
Beatrice has HIV and to access her antiretroviral drugs, she has to walk four kilometres to Muhokya Health Centre III every other week. Kahendero Health Centre II which is within reach is non-functional as it is now a furniture store, because it has not had drugs or a nurse since its inception five years ago.
"Sometimes, the children have to walk to Baylor Uganda located within Kilembe hospital, six kilometres from here in order to get these life-saving drugs," Rehema Hakim, a volunteer village health team member, says.
She adds that although there are groups of people living with HIV involved in HIV prevention activities in the communities, there are hardly any programmes to cater for orphans and vulnerable children and paediatric HIV/Aids diagnosis, care and treatment.
The UFFCA study indicates that the HIV prevalence rate among the respondents was 22.4 per cent, up from 19 per cent the previous year. Nationwide, HIV prevalence rates have risen to 7.3% from 6.4% in 2004/2005, translating into 130,000 new infections among Ugandans aged 15 to 49, according to the 2011 National HIV Indicator Survey (UAIS).
Lack of access to services and traditional social support networks in fishing villages means more people are experiencing the impact of Aids.
Fishing communities being one of the most at-risk populations for HIV, UFFCA's director Kamuturaki recommends aggressive scale up of proven interventions such as condom use and access to HIV counselling and testing.
He says this should include special emphasis on commercial sex workers and their partners and mobile HIV testing should be considered.