ALTHOUGH there is no open lesbians and gay community in Zanzibar, authorities and health officials are worried that homosexual acts are promoting the spread of HIV in the islands.
Zanzibar outlawed homosexuality in 2004, and the law provides for jail terms of up to 25 years for men engaged in homosexual relationships and up to seven year's prison for lesbians.
The Zanzibar Penal Code of 1934, as amended in 2004, provides as follows: any person who carnally knows any boy is guilty of an offence and shall on conviction be liable to imprisonment for life (Section 132). Any person who attempts to have carnal knowledge of any boy is guilty of an offence and shall on conviction be liable to imprisonment for a term not less than twentyfive years.
Any person who: has carnal knowledge of any person against the order of nature; or permits a male person to have carnal knowledge of him or her against the order of nature; is guilty of a felony, and is liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding fourteen years.
Any person who attempts to commit any of the offences specified in section 150 is guilty of a felony, and is liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding seven years. Any person who unlawfully and indecently assaults a boy is guilty of a felony, and is liable to imprisonment for a term not less than twenty-five years.
Any woman who commits an act of lesbianism with another woman whether taking an active or passive role shall be guilty of an offence and liable on conviction to imprisonment for a term not exceeding five years or to a fine not exceeding five hundred thousand shillings.
Any person who: (a) enter[s] or arrange[s] a union whether amounting to marriage or not of the person of the same sex; (b) celebrate[s] a union with another person of the same sex whether amounting to marriage or not; [or] (c) lives as husband and wife [with] another person of the same sex; shall be guilty of an offence and liable on conviction to imprisonment for a term not exceeding seven years.
Zanzibar is predominantly a Muslim country and in Islam homosexuality is strictly prohibited and this sort of thing is not acceptable in Zanzibar, but it is thought that there is an increase in what he called "homosexual behaviour" in Zanzibar.
Data from the Zanzibar AIDS Commission (ZAC) shows that HIV prevalence in homosexual group is 12.3 per cent, which is far above the national prevalence of 0.6 per cent. While Zanzibar battles to keep HIV/AIDS prevalence low, prevalence among Most- At-Risk (MARs) persons has been growing.
MARs include: prostitutes (or Female Sex Workers- FSW), Drugs users (using syringe), and homosexuals were the prevalence in each group is 10.8 per cent, 16 per cent, and 12.3 per cent, respectively. In her speech to the Marking the World AIDS Day last week, Ms Fatma Abdulhabib Fereji the Minister for state- First Vice President's Office (Environment and HIV/ AIDS) also said that frequency rate among students in training institutions is about 2.5 per cent.
"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 minimize the spreading be ignored," she said.
The 2012 World AIDS Day with the theme, "Working Together for an AIDSFree Generation to attain a Zero New HIV Infections, Zero Discrimination and Zero AIDS Related Deaths" was marked in Zanzibar north at Mangapwani coastal village on Unguja Island.
ZAC chairperson Professor Saleh Idrissa said that although Zanzibar is not as severely affected with HIV as her Sub-Saharan African neighbours, but without designing and implementing appropriate control measures, the epidemic could escalate exponentially.
The first three HIV/AIDS cases in Zanzibar were diagnosed in 1986 at Mnazi Mmoja Hospital. Since then, there has been a marked increase in reported cases cumulatively from three in 1986 to 6,425 by June 2012.
Minister for Health Mr Juma Duni Haji appealed to people, particularly youths in Zanzibar to change, since the leading transmission route is sexual intercourse, especially heterosexual sex, which accounts for more HIV transmission in Zanzibar.
He said that HIV transmission through body fluids and blood products in hospital settings is controlled through standard screening and sterilization procedures of invasive equipments, and HIV transmission through piercing and other surgical invasive equipment is controlled by sterilsing the instruments.
In efforts to control the spread of HIV in the Islands with about 1.3 million people, Duni reactivated ZANZIBAR NATIONAL HIV STRATEGIC PLAN (ZNSPII) 2011â - 2016 which focus attention on the prevention of new infections among key populations and community at large, while at the same time providing care and support as well as create enabling environment for people living with HIV or AIDS in Zanzibar.
According Duni and ZAC, the ZNSP II aims at ensuring Universal Access targets for quality integrated services at all levels to prevent new HIV infections, reduce HIV-related illnesses and deaths, and mitigate the effects of the epidemic on households and communities in Zanzibar.
This plan will deliver on Vision 2020, MKUZA as well as catalyzing on the process to realise the targets set by the United Nations General Assembly for scaling up HIV prevention, treatment, care and support, and mitigation of its socio-economic impacts.
This Strategic Plan will also enable Zanzibar to achieve Millennium Development Goal (MDG). "The Strategic Plan, which will guide our HIV interventions over the next five years, is an expression of our commitment and determination to face HIV and AIDS not only as a medical and health, but also as a cultural, social, economic developmental challenge as a whole.
HIV and AIDS challenges affect all sectors of our society and to every Zanzibari family," the minister said. ZNSP II shall address the complexities of our sexuality, our relationships, our culture, beliefs and attitudes that influence the transmission of new infections, our reactions to infection and illness, whether and how we support, stigmatise and discriminate against each other.
The ZNSP II is therefore, about us, and is for us in all settings as it underpins and addresses our risk behaviours. Duni said: "Let us now, and in the years ahead, join together to ensure that the plan is translated into concrete, focused and sustained actions that bear the expected results.
We can do it, and in so doing we can achieve the global call of zero new infection, zero discrimination and zero HIV related death." The minister thanked the development partners whose technical and financial support enabled Zanzibar to have in place this comprehensive ZNSP II, and also recognized stakeholders role involved in making ZNSP II a reality.
ZAC director Mr Makame Omar Shauri asked the media to help in combating the spread of HIV/AIDS in the islands, and that more efforts by reporters, is required to achieve the goal set in the theme. 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 avoidance of stigma.
" Shauri drummed for ABC (Abstain Be-faithful, and use Condom) message, as still important in the minimizing the spread of the HIV, and also campaign against use of drugs, homosexual and commercial sex to reduce the risks.
He said noticeable success in the campaign against the spread of HIV/AIDS include increased capacity to address HIV at all levels, improved quality of HIV services delivered in health facilities, and the number of people accessing these services has increased.
Other stakeholders has increased knowledge and experience of: How to introduce and implement an HIV workplace programme; How to mainstream HIV in core functions including planning and budgeting; Good governance; Monitoring and evaluation;
Advocacy, including how to counter stigma and discrimination; Ensuring financial accountability; and managing donor-funded projects. He said that faith-based organizations have been involved in the campaign, "We have been building the capacity of religious leaders. Promoting healthy behaviours is the main activity of faithbased organisations and religious leaders."
Faith organizations have access to the community and can help to change attitudes and behaviour in order to prevent the spread of HIV/ AIDS. The director said that Health promotion lessons are shared during mosque and church services, in smaller discussion groups and through the mainstream media including television and radio.