Tanzania: Let Us Not Lose Focus in War Against HIV/Aids

Patient being tested for HIV.

The key message that the thousands of delegates -- researchers, campaigners, activists and people living with the HIV virus - delivered to the world as they opened the 22nd International Aids Conference in Amsterdam yesterday was for nations across the globe to fight "dangerous complacency" that may cause an unstoppable resurgence. It's a warning that Tanzania must also take seriously - especially considering the general feeling of satisfaction with the significant strides we have made in fighting the killer virus.

To understand how we can easily lose focus, one does not need to go beyond the comments some members of the public tend to make about how HIV/Aids has become like "any other disease". The problem, one which the delegates have also lamented - is that attention has diverted from basic prevention programmes such as condom distribution to too much a focus on virus-suppressing treatment. The result is that the Aids-causing virus is still spreading easily among vulnerable groups.

In Tanzania, new HIV infections declined by 18 per cent between 2010 and 2016, falling to an estimated 55,000 new HIV infections in 2016, according to UNAids. This is steady progress, at the very least. Yet experts have always been of the opinion that the country needs to do more to stop new HIV infections. Among populations at higher risk in the country are adolescent girls and young women, who accounted for an estimated 18,000 new HIV infections in 2016.

In the same year, there were also more Aids-related deaths among adult men than women. This points to the need to reach more men with HIV testing and treatment services.

The fact remains that, while down overall, new infections have surged in some parts of the world as global attention has waned and funding levelled off. We must not lose focus.

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