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School of Public Health
College of Health Sciences, Makerere University

Exploring the Potential of Savings-Led Economic Strengthening HIV Interventions Among High-Risk Economically Vulnerable Fishing Communities in Uganda: Associations Between Use of Commitment Savings, Sexual Risk Behavior, and Problematic Alcohol Use

Fishing communities are a most-at-risk population for HIV in Uganda. Alcohol use and abuse and economic vulnerability fuel risky sexual practices and lead to increased risk of HIV infection in these communities. Economic strengthening is an emerging intervention approach and interventions promoting saving money via mechanisms with a “soft commitment” in the form of restricting or charging small fees for withdrawals, may serve to reduce spending on alcohol and spending that leads to HIV risk behaviors in cash-based economies. However, little research has been conducted to explore the potential for commitment savings-led economic strengthening interventions to address alcohol use and sexual risk behavior among fisherfolk. This cross-sectional study explored the associations between commitment savings, HIV sexual risk behavior, and problematic alcohol among fisherfolk. We also determined whether commitment savings moderated the associations between problematic alcohol use and risky sexual behaviors. 300 (132 male, 168 female) residents of fishing communities on Lake Victoria, Uganda completed a structured interviewer-assisted interview. Over half (55.3%) used commitment savings by saving money in a bank or savings cooperative or via mobile money. Having problematic alcohol use increased the rate of risky unprotected sex with: all partners (adjIRR 6.08, 95% CI 4.30–8.60) and with casual partners and CSWs/clients (adjIRR 4.90, 95% CI 3.09–7.78), and increased the odds of having met a sex partner at an alcohol venue (adjOR 2.84, 95% CI 1.46–5.51) compared to those without problematic alcohol use. Commitment savings was associated with lower odds of: problematic alcohol use (adjOR 0.50, 95% CI 0.26–0.96), meeting a sex partner at an alcohol venue (adjOR 0.43, 95% CI 0.24–0.78), as well as lower rates of risky unprotected sex with all partners (adjIRR 0.68, 95% CI 0.48–0.96), and with causal partners, CSWs/clients (adjIRR 0.38, 95% CI 0.17–0.85). Use of commitment savings moderated the associations between problematic alcohol use and unprotected sex. However, the moderating effects of commitment savings varied by gender. These findings suggest that promoting saving money in savings mechanisms which involve a commitment may be a potentially viable avenue for HIV prevention among fishing communities and may be particularly helpful for those who have problematic alcohol use.
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