Feckless and reckless or forbearing and resourceful? Looking behind the stereotypes of HIV and AIDS in "fishing communities"

Over the last decade evidence has emerged suggesting that in many countries fisherfolk, as an occupational group, are at greater risk to HIV and AIDS than the general adult population. This high vulnerability has been explained in terms of the lifestyles associated with fishing and related occupations, such as fish processing and trading. Fishermen have been portrayed as risk takers, their attitudes and behaviour shaped by the physical and economic risks of the fishing lifestyle. Women in fishing communities, often engaged in fish processing and trading and providing food and lodging in fishing settlements, are portrayed as being in subordinate social and economic positions and prey to sexual exploitation by cash-rich fishermen. There is a danger in such lifestyle summaries that fisherfolk are characterized as feckless risk takers with a reckless attitude to the chance of contracting HIV. In this article we look at the lives of some men, women, and children living in a lake-side community in Uganda severely affected by HIV and AIDS to illustrate how existing portrayals of fisherfolk, and fishing communities, need to avoid stereotypes in order to better inform appropriate health sector and livelihood support measures.


Westaway, E., Seeley, J., Allison, E. (2007)
Africa Affairs, 106(425): 663-679