AND YOUTHS: -WHAT NEEDS
I would like to thank you and the organizers of
this Workshop for giving me the privilege of opening it and thus participating
in it. As a Member of Parliament
for this area, this invitation provides me with an opportunity to meet a part of
my electorate and to discuss an issue of great national importance.
Thank you very much.
The spread of the HIV/AIDS pandemic has reached alarming levels,
particularly in Sub-Saharan Africa which has only 10% of the World population
but accounts for over 80% of HIV infections and deaths from AIDS.
Infection levels vary from country to country.
In Tanzania it is estimated that over 10% of the population has already
been infected while higher infection levels have been reported for several
countries in Southern Africa. Testing
done on expectant mothers attending clinics has revealed infection rates as high
as 25% or one expectant mother in four. In
the absence of voluntary testing facilities, the reliability of available
statistics is questionable.
In recent years, the campaign against HIV/AIDS has been greatly enhanced
under the personal leadership of the President of the United Republic, His
Excellency Benjamin William Mkapa and the government, religious organizations,
Non-Government Organizations and etc. The
intensification of the campaigns is a very important stage in combating the
spread of the virus and the disease. In
all countries which have recorded decreases in the spread of HIV/AIDS, the first
important step was to ‘break the silence’ and to discuss the
pandemic publicly and in a way which reaches the whole population.
My personal observation is that the message is reaching the people all
the way to the remotest villages. Our
people know how the disease is spread and what they need to do to avoid being
infected. They also know that the disease has no cure and that the
discovery of a vaccine still eludes us. Whether
they practice what they know is a different matter.
The responsibility of the government and the Community at large is to
ensure that people have as much
information on HIV/AIDS and what they must do to avoid being infected as
possible. We have no choice except
to leave them to decide whether or not to follow the advice availed to them.
I think it is probably too early to notice decreases in infection rates,
particularly bearing in mind the fact that testing facilities for HIV infection
are restricted to hospitals, most of which are in urban centers and thus not
available to most of the population. Even
if we noticed changes in infection rates, it would be imprudent to ascribe them
to any one intervention. I would
like to take this opportunity to commend the President and all those who have
been active in sensitizing the people to change their sexual behaviour so as to
avoid infection. Even in the
absence of statistical evidence, I feel confident that a large number of
rational people have changed their ways for the better.
Have you not! Whatever the
case, they know what they ought to do to avoid infection.
We all acknowledge the fact that the HIV has infected a big proportion of
our population. and a big number of people have died from AIDS or opportunistic
infections caused by Aids. Breaking
the Silence and intensification of the campaign against HIV/AIDS led by the top
leadership of the Nation is an important step but by no means the only step
required to check the devastation of the disease.
We need additional measures to complement the campaigns and we are all
aware that other measures are being undertaken by the government and other
groups. I would like to touch on
some of these measures.
It has been established that the most adversely
affected segment of the population is between the ages of 15 and 45.
This is most unfortunate because this segment is composed of the most
active work force and any adverse effect on it will have a direct effect on the
economy and general welfare of the Nation.
Closer examination of this group reveals that most of its members are to
be found in schools and institutions of higher learning, in the armed forces or
as employees of the government and the private sector.
They largely constitute a ‘captive’ population which can be
reached through their institutions. This
is an advantage which must be capitalized on.
It has been recommended that representatives of this group should be
trained to act as animators to their colleagues because they are likely to be
more effective than outsiders: they know their colleagues and they can reach out
to them to advise them to take appropriate measures to avoid HIV infections.
This group can also help to sensitize the general public on the pandemic
and to advise the public on ways of avoiding infection and spreading of the
virus. They thus constitute an
asset which must be used in the war against HIV/AIDS.
There are groups of young people which need to be assisted beyond
sensitization. There are young
women who have been forced into prostitution due to poverty and failure to get
employment. The public must find
ways of helping this group by providing them with the means needed to enable
them to engage in less dangerous and gainful employment in agriculture,
commercial activities and in small scale industries.
In this way, some of them could be removed from the streets, bars etc.
and helped to lead more decent lives.
AIDS leaves behind poor orphans because it tends to kill both parents
after long and expensive illness. The
society must find ways of bringing up these children by providing them with
shelter, food, adult care and education otherwise the country will have serious
problems when these children grow up.
Other interventions include the use of drugs to prevent the spread of the
diseases from infected mothers to their infants and to elongate life and medical
care for those already infected.
What we must accept is that the HIV/AIDS epidemic is basically a social
problem which ought not be left to the government or to the Ministry of
health. Measures must be taken,
therefore, to empower communities to take steps to halt the spread of the
disease and ultimately to lead to its decline.
The youth are in a better position to bring about the desired changes
than any other group in our country.
We must also accept that all possible measures must be applied together.
We must continue to intensify the campaign against HIV/AIDS through the
mass media, through contacts with communities at all levels and through
technical and political fora. We
must recruit and train animators within vulnerable groups who can reach their
peers and urge them to change their behaviour to check the spread of HIV/AIDS,
we should also find gainful employment for those who find themselves in
situations which force them to engage in activities which expose them to
infection and finally, drugs should be made available to those already infected.
So far I have said nothing about the use of condoms or the practice of
what is called ‘safe sex’. Young
people should be encouraged to abstain from sex outside marriage and where they
find this difficult, they should get married and remain faithful to their
partners. They should, however,
know that condoms can protect them from infection but that protection may not be
complete. Condoms should be made
readily available and affordable. I
think we are putting too much emphasis on the use of condoms and what is called
safe sex. Some posters seems to send out the wrong message particularly
to young people.
Finally, our religions should take active part in encouraging the society
to observe the rules laid down in the Holy Books on sex and they should create
youth groups to discuss and strategies on ways of avoiding the spread of
It will take a long time before a cure or a vaccine for HIV/AIDS is found
and while the struggle to find such cure or vaccine continues, the disease
continues to kill its victims and to wreck havoc on the economies of the poor
countries most affected by the disease. We
must change our sexual behaviour if we and our country are to survive.
Thank you. I now declare your workshop open.