Development, Dependency and HIV Risk in Kiribati
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A study was undertaken in Kiribati, a small Pacific island nation, that has a low-level HIV epidemic but a high incidence of STIs among seafarers, their spouses (and children), and those involved in sex work. There are connections between development and dependency and HIV risk in Kiribati. Kiribati is a peripheral and dependent small island state underwritten by conditional aid and financial assistance and advice from donor countries, entwined in, and subject to, external globalising processes. We found two major factors related to Kiribati’s dependency engendered HIV risk. The first is Kiribati’s reliance on transnational seafaring. Long periods away from home, shipboard and port mateship cultures, and infrequent condom use in casual and paid sexual relations while in overseas ports, exacerbated by heavy alcohol use, have rendered i-Kiribati seafarers vulnerable to HIV. The second factor is related to the labour force participation of young women, which is extremely limited. In this context, some young i-Kiribati women choose to work on board, foreign fishing vessels selling sex. They stay with one client while on board a boat—for up to three months—and sex work is not only an economic transaction, but also emotional and affective labour. It is a pattern that makes consistent condom use problematic. Having multiple sequential seafarer partners may in fact generate considerable HIV vulnerability.