3 December 2012

Tanzania: Despite Gains, Aids War Must Continue


THE government has announced highly ambitious anti-AIDS plans that are tailored to eliminate new infections by the year 2015 and bring to a halt all deaths that are caused by opportunistic ailments.

Indeed, this is a heartfelt state undertaking. The initiative envisages greater access to medical treatment for people living with HIV and AIDS and a more impassioned call on every individual to behave responsibly and steer clear of the possibility of contracting the formidable disease.

The nation has signed an agreement with the Global Fund that will see 486bn/- being channelled into the Mother to Child HIV transmission programme, which is tailored to whittle down the infection rate from six to four per cent. But this is not the end of the story.

The campaign also seeks offering anti-retroviral drugs to everyone who needs them. Testing kits and other paraphernalia will be made available in all major health centres. It is accolades for the government, but it should not rest on its laurels.

The terrain will remain rugged and tough for a long time to come. When speaking to the nation on World AIDS Day, President Jakaya Kikwete emphasized that everyone should behave responsibly.

He exhorted parents to enlighten their children, especially older children, on the impact of AIDS on families, communities and the nation. He also asked religious leaders to keep reminding their congregations of the need to remain healthy.

The AIDS pandemic has been around for 26 years so far. This being the case, it is rational to assume that every adult Tanzanian knows about this dangerous and highly offensive disease. It is a disease that packs a killer punch and one that shames its victims.

This dreadful spectacle notwithstanding, some people still indulge in unprotected sex dare-devil style. This nation still has prostitutes, who work the nights charging a greater fee for unprotected sex and a much greater one for anal sex.

This is a cardinal sin that smells to High Heaven. This nation will never bring HIV infections to zero by the year 2015 if some of us behave like unwitting morons. It is high time the state fought these so-called commercial sex workers and their patrons more vigorously.

Even seemingly upright men and women in this country sometimes behave irresponsibly. Some men visit brothels that are mushrooming in smelly, dunk alleys in urban centres and buy what they perceive to be social services from whores risking their lives in the process.

Some so-called guest houses are notorious for hosting men and women who fornicate even during working hours, imperiling their lives. This too is a cardinal sin that should be fought really hard by the state. With this kind of irrational behaviour prevailing in society AIDS infections will never be shot down.

It is imperative, however, to mention here that Tanzania has succeeded in scaling down HIV infections so far. A recent United Nations report shows that Tanzania reduced AIDS-related deaths by 48,000 annually between 2005 and last year. This is encouraging news. The trend must be sustained if the quest to bring the infections down to zero by 2015 is to bear fruit.

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