Tanzania: Call for Cut of HIV/Aids Prevalence in Key Groups

Rose Athumani

Tanzania Daily News [Dar es Salaam]

ALTHOUGH the nation has recorded impressive success in fighting HIV and AIDS in the country, the disease’s prevalence is still high in key population groups.

Speaking to the ‘Daily News’ in Dar es Salaam as the United Nations celebrates 69 years of its establishment this week, UN Development Programme (UNDP) Programme Specialist HIV/AIDS, Dr Bwijo Bwijo, said HIV prevalence among key population groups was higher than the prevalence in the general population.

He said focus should now be on the key population groups, which include drug users, sex workers and gay, to ensure that all efforts placed in controlling the epidemic does not go to waste.

“Effectiveness of programmes have led to the stabilising of HIV and AIDS in the general population, but efforts need to be focused on the key population groups, so that the current prevalence is not reversed back to higher numbers,” he explained.

Statistics from the UN websites show that HIV prevalence among injection drug users was at 16 per cent, sex workers at 10.8 per cent while among gay or men having sex with men, was at 12.4 per cent.

The HIV prevalence in the country declined from 7 per cent in 2003-2004 to 5.7 per cent in 2007-2008 and 5.1 per cent in 2011-2012 in mainland Tanzania and Zanzibar and stabilized to around 0.6 per cent in Zanzibar in the same period.

The UNDP Programme Specialist on HIV/AIDS said the key population groups face stigma, discrimination and limited access to appropriate and user-friendly services and information, which might in turn them away from seeking assistance.

“These vulnerable groups might cause the national prevalence to go back up, if efforts are not made to address their plights, of discriminations which might make them fear to access preventive measures including treatments,” he explained.

Dr Bwijo said UN supports the Tanzania Commission for AIDS (TACAIDS) and Zanzibar AIDS Commission (ZAC) to coordinate the national HIV response through capacity building, advocacy, communication, and improved quality of delivery.

“The UNDP provides supports on various areas of HIV and AIDS including on gender and human rights to the two government institutions, so that they can better coordinate the national HIV response,” he explained.

A part from working with the government, the UN also works the Parliament through the Tanzania Parliamentarian AIDS Coalition (TAPAC) to ensure an enabling environment for effective national HIV and AIDS response.

“Working from top down on this issue has helped a lot in the response to HIV and AIDS issues, which have lead to a lot of achievements in the areas, since the blessings on all issues related to the epidemic comes from the top levels of authority in the country,” he explained.

The UN week which culminates on 24th October rejuvenates the long standing collaboration between the government of Tanzania and the United Nations, re-enforces the roles and responsibilities of joint partnership and strengthens commitment for successful implementation of the United Nations Development Assistance Plan (UNDAP 2011-2015) aligned with the government’s development priorities for the country.

Dr Bwijo said the UN week which started yesterday, 20th October 2014 is meant to highlight and bring awareness to the public on the work that is done by the UN, adding that there will be exhibitions at the Karamjee Hall on Friday, 24th October 2014 to mark the climax of the celebrations.

The United Nations in Tanzania is one of eight UN country offices in the world to pilot the Delivering as One reform and since 2007 UN Tanzania has been developing new ways of working together with Government to achieve a greater impact on the ground by being more results oriented, efficient and harmonising business practices across agencies.

The Delivering as One reform involved among others streamlining programmes, focusing on areas where the UN can have an impact, reducing duplication of effort and making more effective use of human and financial resources.