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All photos by Mariah Quesada. Agnes Nabukenya has been working as a prostitute since she was I clutched on as the wheels of the Toyota minivan carved a path through a series of muddy, makeshift villages. The region in southwest Uganda now has the highest rate of HIV in the country—12 percent among adults aged 15 to 49, as opposed to around 7. It's a small, undeveloped township that consists of a few dusty roads, some shanty shops, a couple of street food stalls, some motorcycle taxis, and a hostel.
It's unlikely that it's on your "must-see" list. Unless, that is, you're a long-haul trucker. Lyantonde is an infamous trucker town and the main stopover between Uganda and Rwanda for long distance drivers, where sex is readily available as long as you're prepared to pay for it. As the sun sets and the electricity cuts out, young, uneducated girls in need of money flock to Lyantonde's main strip to earn their living.
Prostitution is illegal in Uganda, so some work "cover jobs" in small bars, waiting for patrons they can sneak off with, while others go directly to the source, where the trucks stop on the edge of town. The girls were shy and soaked in perfume. I now have a three-year-old son who I also have to support. She said she always uses a condom, even if that means she has to work twice as hard. I quickly learned that she was an exception in her field. To date, there are an estimated 9, OVCs orphans and vulnerable children in a district of 80, people.
Their attempt to foster education and community involvement is laudable, but as I stood among a group of sick children and orphans, I couldn't help but think that they were still at the bottom of a huge uphill struggle. During my time with CHAU, Lauben and his team drove us through banana groves and down dirt tracks to meet some "real villagers.
At some stops we were by smiling, well-fed children in crisp button-down shirts, all eager to show off their grades and English skills. After a while, she began to tell me that she was dying of AIDS. Because of the stigma surrounding the disease, Rosemary's husband didn't tell her he was infected before he died. When he passed away along with the three prostitutes he'd been regularly sleeping with , she got tested and discovered she was HIV positive.