Each year on 1 December, the world commemorates World AIDS Day (WAD). People around the world unite to show support for people living with HIV and to remember those who have died from AIDS-related illnesses. World AIDS Day National event was held in Mbeya and launched by Mbeya Regional Commissioner Hon Juma Homera at Ruandanzovwe grounds in Mbeya region. The 2021 World Aids Day commemoration’s theme was “End Inequalities. End AIDS. End Pandemics”. World Aids Day commemorations is an important opportunity to recognize the essential roles that communities have played and continue to play in the AIDS response at the international, national and local levels.
During WAD commemoration the Guest of honour was The President of the United Republic of Tanzania Her excellency, Hon. Samia Suluhu Hassan who was represented by The Prime Minister of the United Republic of Tanzania Hon. Majaliwa Kassim Majaliwa. Majaliwa was informed about NACOPHA’s contribution to the HIV response especially working with PLHIV on the grassroots in mobilizing the community for HIV service utilization, especially voluntary testing. On behalf of the Government, the prime minister gave his sincere appreciation to the World Aids Day organizers, HIV/AIDS program implementers and used that occasion to thank all development partners for collaborating with the government in the implementation of HIV/AIDS projects in Tanzania. “I assure you all that the government will continue to support the fight against HIV”, he said.
In his speech, the Prime Minister insisted that stigma and discrimination is still an obstacle in reaching the set targets in HIV response. He urged for systems that will eliminate stigma and discrimination against HIV/AIDS. Hon Majaliwa requested all participants to ensure that no child is born with HIV in Tanzania. The Prime Minister affirmed government commitment to improve the health of Tanzanians as the nation moves towards achieving the HIV free generation, by 2030. He also added that the government will continue to encourage community and stakeholders including the private sectors, to contribute to the AIDS Trust Fund (ATF) as well as to find more reliable sources of funding for the ATF.
Mbeya Regional Commissioner Mr. Juma Homera, provided statistics on the prevalence of HIV in Mbeya by saying that Mbeya was the third region in the country with a high rate on the spread of HIV; with the general statistics of 9.3% of PLHIV in the region; and that they have been providing budgetary allocation (from the financial year 2020/2021) in the region that was centered to HIV interventions (through programs and forums) that’s about Tsh. 2.7 billion; and also a target of reaching 73% of PLHIV in Mbeya through constructing more CTCs by increasing the number of CTCs from 50 to 80 count of CTCs in the region of Mbeya.
NACOPHA chairperson Ms. Leticia Mourice appreciated the role of young people on HIV and AIDS response and revealed increasing prevalence amongst young people, especially young girls and advised them on the importance of abstaining from sex at a young age, but also appreciating the cooperation from Government and religious leaders as they play a critical role in supporting HIV and AIDS interventions.
However, it was mentioned that a lack of sufficient knowledge on HIV and AIDS services to some of the religious leaders serves as a major challenge that affects response.
The involvement of young people was acknowledged as a powerful tool in ending AIDS and preventing more incidences. The Executive Director of TACAIDS Dr. Leornard Maboko explains the importance of involving religious leaders in HIV and AIDS response by commenting how powerful their role can sustain the response. It was highlighted that every six (6) months there will be a high-level meeting between GoT and top leaders from five pillars to discuss the progress of engaging with religious leaders in HIV and ADIS response. Furthermore, it was pointed out on the relevancy of balancing between theology and scientific contribution to reducing misinformation in the response.
Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office – responsible for Labour, Youth, Employment and Persons with Disabilities, Ummy Nderiananga explained that the theme for WAD 2021 aimed at mobilizing citizens to go for voluntary HIV testing after receiving counselling services and other associated services including enrollment in ARV for the ones diagnosed HIV positive. She further elaborated that the theme aligns with national efforts in achieving the HIV global targets of 0-0-0 (0 new HIV infection, 0 HIV related stigma, and 0 deaths caused by HIV/AIDS). Also, she explained the importance of youth in contributing to the national development and by so saying insisted on the need for youth to know their status and live responsibly to achieve their personal goals. She said, “Youth are key actors towards national development. According to the national census estimates, more than 68% of Tanzanian citizens are youth and so there is a significant increase of youth and children in our country. Therefore, it is important to engage and empower youth meaningfully including realizing their priorities.”
Conclusively, she elaborated the research conducted on the indicators for HIV/AIDS in Tanzania that indicated youth is among the groups that lagging in achieving the global targets whereas youth aged 15-24 are not aware of their HIV status compared to adults. She mentioned this as the cause of low enrollment for youth in ARV so do low viral suppression. She finalized by calling upon the youth to be at the frontline in the fight against new HIV infection.
However, NACOPHA through Zonal Offices collaborated with other stakeholders in the preparation and marking of the World AIDS Day at the regional level and supported PLHIV cluster to participate in the commemoration and raise awareness in response to HIV in their respective councils.