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Worrying! Male sex workers stand in way of HIV fight in Gulu, says Mayor George Labeja

Mayor of Gulu municipality, Mr. George Labeja has decried the increasing number of male sex workers, citing that they stand in the way of the fight against HIV/AIDS. (PHOTO/File)

GULU –  Mayor of Gulu municipality, Mr. George Labeja, has expressed concerns over the increasing number of male sex workers in Gulu town citing that this is causing an increased spread of HIV/AIDS.

While addressing stakeholders during a dialogue meeting organized my Alliance of Mayors and Municipal Leaders on HIV/AIDS in Africa (AMICAALL) recently, he argued that the constitution of Uganda does allow practices of prostitution but police do not want to arrest them.

He cautioned police against protecting prostitute in disguise of protecting their rights.

“Police should stop protecting the rights of people doing wrong things in the community because our constitution does not permit any person to operate as sex worker selling sex,” Labeja argued.

He said much as stakeholders are trying to mitigate the challenge of HIV/AIDS prevalence among the numerous female sex workers in the municipality, the situation is getting worse as many men have also joined to trade in the illegal transaction.

Mr Labeja said it is shameful that the male prostitution is being promoted by a former United Nation staff based in Gulu (identity concealed) working as the administrator of male sex workers to network men with sexually starved money loaded women for pay. The administrator according to the Mayor earns UGX 600,000 per month.

According to Gulu district health educator, Mr William Onyai, he confirmed the existence of sex workers in Gulu district. He argues that providing enough services to sex workers it has not been easy because of the nature of the work and time.

“Condom dispensers always get empty even whenever we refill it on a daily basis and these sex workers get lot injuries which are exposing them to contract HIV/AIDS at a faster rate,” Onyai said

Asked about the hotspot in Gulu, he stated that the practices are in some of the happening places in Gulu town and major centers in the sub-counties where traders and travelers converge. He declined to disclose details on medical ethical grounds.

Much as police are aware of the vice, Mr Labeja says he was cautioned by the top leadership of the police in Gulu never to arrest prostitutes roaming streets of Gulu town at night because he (the Mayor) shall be charged with abduction.

“Sometime back I planned to launch a crackdown operation to have the prostitute arrested but a high ranking police officer threatened me that I shall be charged for abduction,” Mr Labeja narrated during the dialogue.

In an Interview, One of the night Boda Boda operators in Gulu town who preferred anonymity revealed to our Website that prostitutes roaming in town have clusters and the stage according to areas they come from.

“Sex workers from Bar Dege division have a separate stage, those from Layibi have their own location and there are others who come from outside the Municipality who stand in their separate spot and these ladies don’t mix up” He revealed.

The night time motorcyclist says the busiest spot includes Cemetery road, roadside along Gulu-Kampala road between Stanbic bank and Don petrol station, Acholi road and opposite Buganda pub which he said has a secret name known as Hakuna Kulala (a Kiswahili words meaning no laying down or sleeping). He says their population is growing every single night.

The Aswa River region police spokesman Jimmy Patrick Okema recently says it becomes hard if stakeholders abandoned the fight to the police alone because whenever police arrest such people, it is always hard to produce evidence of a crime committed in court.

He appeals to parents to support their daughters with basic needs arguing that most of these women and young girls selling sex for survival originate from the community as victims of neglect from parents and rejection from their husbands.

Statistically, Gulu stands at 8.4 percent of HIV/AIDS prevalence compared to the national rate of 6.2 percent as of FY 2017/2018. In the FY 2018/2019, the HIV trend in Gulu has reduced to 1919 new positive cases recorded compared to FY 2018/2019 where up to 3462 cases were recorded in various health facilities across the district.

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