Hundreds of young girls are flocking the streets of Moroto municipality for commercial sex to earn a living. Majority of the commercial sex workers dropped out of school due to unwanted pregnancies.
They resorted to commercial sex after going through hard times at the hands of their boyfriends, the fathers of their children. Thanks to the peace in the region, the girls now parade themselves on the streets to earn some money to support their children.
On Wednesdays, Fridays and weekends, several girls from Campswahili, Labour-line, Kakoliye and other parts of Moroto town spend the nights moving from one club to another hunting for men.
On the other days, they stay in strategic places like the busy suburbs of South Division, waiting for officials attending workshops and businessmen including Kenyan traders in town.
Susan Nakiru has been in the trade since 2010 after dropping out of school in primary seven due to pregnancy. Nakiru says she was rejected by her parents and boyfriend, which drove her to the streets.
Nakiru, a mother of three and now living positively, says her life has since changed, adding sex vending has helped her meet her domestic challenges.
She notes that while the business has many risks including death threats from clients, she has managed to put up a saloon that she hopes to retire to someday.
Betty Napeyok, another commercial sex worker in Moroto town, says she was impregnated by a politician in senior three and abandoned. The single mother of two says no one came to her rescue apart from condemning her.
Although Moroto looks a small town, numerous activities, including mining, business and tourism make it attractive for commercial sex, according to Hassan Khadir, the Chairperson of People Living with HIV in Moroto.
He attributes the increasing sex trade to the peace ushered into the region, coupled with high levels of poverty.
During the launch of the Presidential Fast Track Initiative on ending HIV in Karamoja early this month, health experts revealed that commercial sex was one of the key drivers to new infections in the region.
Karamoja registered an increase of 0.3 percent in New HIV infections in just one year after reducing the prevalence from 5.3 percent in 2011 to 3.4 percent in 2016.
The HIV prevalence rate now stands at 3.7 percent, according to statistics from Uganda AIDS Commission.