WHILE Zanzibar battles to keep HIV/AIDS prevalence low, the prevalence rate amongst students in institutes of higher learning is about 2.5 per cent as revealed here during commemoration of World AIDS Day.
"Although we have managed to maintain the national HIV/AIDS prevalence at 0.6 per cent for several years, Zanzibar is at risk of having more people contracting the disease should the strategies to minimise the spreading be ignored," said the Minister of State (Environment and HIV/AIDS), Ms Fatma Abdulhabib Fereji.
The 2012 World AIDS Day under the theme, "Working Together for an AIDS-Free Generation to attain 'Zero New HIV Infections, Zero Discrimination and Zero AIDS Related Deaths," was marked yesterday in Zanzibar at Mangapwani coastal village, north of Unguja Island.
The Minister said that prevalence was also growing high amongst Most-At-Risk (MARs) persons such as prostitutes, drugs users, and homosexuals where the prevalence is 10.8 per cent, 16 per cent, and 12.3 per cent, respectively. Earlier, the Director of the Zanzibar AIDS Commission (ZAC), Mr Makame Omar Shauri, said Zanzibar recorded about 6,425 people living with HIV.
The figures are from 1986 up to June this year. He said that reporters and the media have a great role in combating the spread of HIV/AIDS on the isles, and that more efforts are required to achieve the goal set under the theme. Addressing the World HIV/AIDS gathering, Zanzibar Minister for Health Mr Juma Duni Haji emphasised that awareness is still important in the fight against the spread of the HIV.
He said that the media, religious organizations, and NGOs have been doing good job in raising awareness in the public, "but efforts need to be doubled to achieve the goal including discouraging stigma." Duni appealed to Zanzibaris to use available local resources where foreign funding in HIV/AIDS is going down, and that youth should avoid reckless sex before marriage.
Health officials on the islands used the function to drum for ABC (Abstain Be-faithful, and use Condom) message, as still important in minimizing the spread of the HIV.