Mombasa Road, Mlolongo Area
Prostitution is a main cause of HIV infection. This can be explained by the multiple sex partners, the lack of education and knowledge about HIV, lack of prevention by using a condom and a lack of bargaining power to fight for reproductive and health rights. Female sex workers are vulnerable, especially when relating with truck drivers, as these men are currently estimated to have the highest prevalence of HIV and AIDS at 25%. Unfortunately along the Mombasa highway, 30% of the female sex workers’ clients are truck drivers.
Hard conditions of employment for the truck drivers contribute to their high risk sexual behavior. Being away from home for long periods of time, earning a low income, isolation, and driving long hours all contribute to them being involved in the sex trade. A study has revealed that along the Mombasa-Uganda highway, only 25% of the bars have condom dispensers and 73% distribute or sell condoms. The situation is even worse in Uganda concerning the distribution and use of condoms, thus resulting in the high spread of HIV among trucks drivers.
Only a few Voluntary Counseling and Testing (VCT) centres can be found in Mlolongo resulting in a lack of testing among the women who thus do not know about their status and keep on spreading HIV through unprotected sex. Moreover, the stigma is very high and most women are too scared to be seen in a place like a VCT or PMTCT (Prevention of Mother To Child Transmission) centre implying that they may be infected with HIV.
Mlolongo town is located twenty kilometres Southeast of Nairobi and only 5-8kms from the outlying industrial area east of the city, on the Mombasa, Kampala (Uganda) highway. Mlolongo is now a booming town due to its strategic location. Many people living there either work in the emergent industries like cement factories or commute to Nairobi every day. It is now a town with 80,000 inhabitants, several clinics, a couple of schools, two major colleges, and several banks. There are also three slums located close to Mlolongo with iron-built houses and very bad living conditions: Kicheko, City Cotton and Kwa Mbemba.
Mlolongo is also a key truck point for long distance lorry drivers on the East African route from the port of Mombasa or Tanzania to Kampala, Kigali and Goma in Uganda. It was the ideal location for a weighbridge where all the trucks entering Nairobi must be weighed and pay accordingly. That is how the town got its name, meaning “queuing” because of the high number of trucks waiting or parked along the highway at night. The place is very lively at night and has attracted many poor women desperate to earn some money, leading to their involvement in sex work for survival. Mlolongo is one of 39 highway stops along the Mombasa road, a road on which 2,400 trucks park every night, attracting 5,600 prostitutes.
Studies have revealed that there is a strong association between transportation hubs and HIV/AIDS prevalence. Towns along the highway tend to have higher prevalence rates than interior towns. It is indeed noticeable in Mlolongo where the prevalence is 12% instead of the average 7.4% in the country.