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ICAP Launches Boat to Support HIV Services for Tanzania’s Lake Victoria Islands

February 20, 2015

ICAP has launched a new boat that will transport health workers to offer HIV services to 38,000 people on five of the 23 islands on Tanzania’s Lake Victoria.

Representatives from the Ministry of Health (MOH), the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and regional health officials joined community members for the launch celebration.

The boat supports ICAP’s ongoing collaborative efforts with the MOH, supported by PEPFAR, to expand HIV prevention, care and treatment services at all levels of the health system, across 11 districts in Tanzania. ICAP works with local authorities, health facilities and community organizations to scale-up HIV services and expand psychosocial support to people living with HIV, voluntary medical male circumcision, and HIV prevention for key populations, including people who inject drugs, men who have sex with men, sex workers, and fishermen—who make up a large portion of the island population, where HIV prevalence is higher than on the mainland.

“This boat will address the challenge of transport in the Islands, a problem that has been hindering the efficient delivery of public services to the Islands population,” said Mr. Lembris Kipuvo, the Muleba District Health Commissioner.

Fishermen, who move between the islands for work, are considered at high risk for HIV and sexually-transmitted infections, and their nomadic lives make accessing health services a challenge. In Tanzania, where adult HIV prevalence is 4.8%, outreach to fishermen is crucial to ICAP’s efforts to scale-up circumcision.

Among the speakers, regional medical officer Dr. Thomas Rutta emphasized the importance of the donation towards the improvement in the quality of services provided to the islands.

“With the donation of this boat by ICAP, health care workers can be more easily transported to our islands and improve quality of service to people of the Lake Victoria community,” he said. He also called on the people of Kagera to use the boat so that they can show the rest of Tanzania and the world at large that it is possible for communities to work together to improve the health of families and individuals.

Tanzania is one of 14 priority countries identified in 2007 by W.H.O. and UNAIDS for the scale-up of male circumcision, which can reduce the risk of contracting HIV from sex with women by more than 60 percent. In addition to monthly visits to the islands, ICAP supports major circumcision campaigns that also target fishermen.

“There has been incredible acceptance of services among fishermen,” said Dr. Fernando Morales, ICAP’s country director in Tanzania. “This boat will only strengthen that outreach as well as the partnership between ICAP and the MOH.”