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More needed in Aids ‘3 zero’ plan

More needed in Aids ‘3 zero’ plan
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The minister for Health, Social Development,
The minister for Health, Social Development, Gender, Elderly and Children, Ms Ummy Mwalimu, stresses a point in a past parliamentary session. PHOTO | SHABAN NDYAMUKAMA

These groups include, sex workers, gays, lesbians, business and service providers in the areas with high economic activities, like mining, fishing and plantations.

Mwanza. While Tanzania has succeeded to reduce new HIV infections rate from seven to five per cent in the past eight years at the national level, the prevalence rate remains high in some groups.

These groups include, sex workers, gays, lesbians, business and service providers in the areas with high economic activities, like mining, fishing and plantations.

Other groups at risk of new infections involve young people, especially girls in adolescence and women aged 15 to 24 years.

The rate of HIV

infections:

According to the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), report on HIV infections in Shinyanga Region, about 1.1 per cent of adolescent girls are prone to the risk of new HIV infections, but the rate increases to 9.3 percent for women aged 20 to 24 years.

There are several reasons leading to high risk of Aids infection to this group, some being customs, poor economic conditions, stigma and lack of reproductive health knowledge and methods to avoid new infections.

Due to this situation, the Ministry of Health, Social Development, Gender, Elderly and Children and other stakeholders, through the USAID funding, have launched a national campaign to encourage adolescent girls and women aged 15 to 24 years to voluntarily go for medical check-ups.

The campaign going by the name Besti Jiongeze: Twende Tukapime (My Friend, Take Control: Let’s go for medical check-up), is being implemented in 11 regions of Arusha, Dar es Salaam, Dodoma, Kilimanjaro, Lindi, Iringa, Mbeya, Morogoro, Njombe, Shinyanga and Tabora.

Apart from ensuring those who will be found infected with HIV given antiviral drugs, the campaign will also include counselling for behavioural change, testing of HIV/AIDS related diseases like Tuberculosis.

The official campaign was launched by the Minister for Health, Social Development, Gender, Elderly and Children, Ummy Mwalimu on April 16, this year at Kakola Village of Kahama District in Shinyanga Region.

According to Dr Albert Komba from Jhpiego Tanzania’s office, the campaign implemented through the Sauti project will reach more than 170, 000 adolescent girls and women aged 15 to 24 years.

With Jhpiego and Sauti project, other partners implementing the five-year campaign are Engender Health, Pact, NIMR through Mwanza centre, the National AIDS Controlling Program (NACP) and the National AIDS Commission (TACAIDS).

“We will deploy various methods to reach the targeted groups in this campaign; we will use testing and counselling. Social and religious leaders and other influential people in the community will also be involved in this campaign,” says Dr Komba

The operation strategy and approach will also include youth’s economic empowerment. The Ministry will also bring together female musicians aged less than 25 years to form a group and come up with a special song advocating for voluntarily health testing among the adolescent girls and women under 25 years old.

“Testing for health status enables the person to get timely and appropriate medical care and advice on how to live with HIV or avoid new infections,” explains the Minister.

National objetives:

Referring to the national objectives in fight against AIDS, the minister said if everyone would be responsible, Tanzania was likely to reach three zero goals in all HIV/AIDS related matters.

“We are looking to achieve three zero objectives which are; Zero in new HIV/AIDS infections, Zero in stigma, and Zero in deaths due to AIDS,” stressed the Minister

The USAID Representative at the launching campaign, Ms Jane Davis said the program aims at protecting younger girls from HIV infection, urging the community to stop harmful traditional practices, including early marriage, sexual violence and stigma.

“We must reach the girls before they join or engage in activities that increases the risk of HIV infection,” stresses Ms Davis

Tanzania is among ten nations in the Southern African regions of the Sahara Desert participating in the DREAMS project to enable girls set goals, be tolerant, and get empowered to be free from HIV infections.

Although national statistics show the infection has decreased from 7 per cent to five, the situation is alarming in some regions,” reveals the Minster

Njombe Region is leading with 14 per cent of new infections followed by Iringa and Mbeya with nine per cent each.Shinyanga follows by 7.4 percent, while Dar es Salaam scores 6.9 per cent followed by a 5.9 percent in the Coast Region. “All adolescent girls and women aged 15 to 24 years who will be tested and found positive will definitely get ARVs,” promised the Minister adding

“Currently, the government provides free ARVs to more than 700,000 people, including pregnant women and lactating mothers to rescue their children from infections,” Young women’s comments on HIV infection

Ms Livian Michael ,19, one of the Kakola village girls who tested voluntarily urged her fellow young girls and the entire community to adopt the culture of testing to know their health status for enhancing earlier medical care for those infected and precautions against new infections.

Aisha Julius, 23, one of the campaign peers urged young girls to avoid bad behaviours especially, engaging in commercial sex, which is likely to cause news Aids infections.

“Some young girls engage in commercial sex regardless of the consequences, including HIV infection; we are planning to reach these groups, and advise them on the need for regular medical check-up,” Aisha says

What can be done now to achieve three Zeros

As a nation, we must find and use new techniques in dealing with new HIV infections. It’s high time we started using religious leaders, traditional elders and dignitaries starting from the village, Ward, district, regional up to the national level.

Campaigns against new infections must be collaborative rather than the common character of those involved in fighting the epidemic locking themselves in hotels, planning and enforcing HIV/AIDS related issues without involving the local community.

The most important aspect should be promoting the values and good behaviour among the community members while noting that prevention from the new HIV infections should begin with the individual, the community up to the whole nation.

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