IOM Tanzania Targets Health, Mobility and HIV Prevention on World Aids Day
HIV remains a major public health issue around the world, being responsible for over 35 million deaths to date. Migrants and mobile populations are recognised as being at a high risk of HIV infection as they frequently face marginalisation, exclusion and various barriers to accessing health promotion and care. The disease is especially concerning in Tanzania, where it remains the number one cause of mortality.
In commemoration of World Aids Day, IOM conducted two events to target drivers of the epidemic in Tanzania. On 1 and 2 December 2015, IOM staff and volunteers from the Youth of United Nations Association of Tanzania (YUNA) distributed over 1000 packages to bus drivers and travellers at Ubungo Bus Station. Ubungo is the central bus station of Dar es Salaam and is the transportation link to most large urban areas such as Arusha, Moshi, Morogoro and Dodoma. The packages contained pamphlets providing information on HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases in Kiswahili, World Aids Day 2015 keyrings and condoms donated by Population Services International (Tanzania). The advocacy event was expected to raise awareness of the recipients of the package of the scale of the HIV problem and to provide information on measures to contain and control the spread of the disease. The event targeted Ubungo bus station as a study conducted by IOM in 2014, ‘Health Vulnerabilities of Mobile Populations and Affected Communities at the Port of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania’ indicated that there is a high HIV vulnerability of mobile populations and the surrounding communities on transport corridors due to the phenomenon of concurrent sexual partnerships and low rates of condom use.
On 2 December 2015, IOM also facilitated a round table discussion regarding HIV/AIDS at the Muhimbili University of Allied Sciences to increase the awareness of the disease amongst Tanzanian youth. Speakers from IOM, TACAIDS and the Muhimbili University of Allied Sciences conducted presentations to thirty students regarding the disease. The students were then divided into male and female groups and given discussion questions, to test and expand their knowledge of HIV and AIDS. The genders were separated in the context of the stigma surrounding the disease, to allow attendees to speak their mind freely. The event specifically targeted raising awareness of HIV/AIDS among youth. Dr Subilaga Kaganda of TACAIDS said, "This event is a great initiative. HIV in Tanzania is decreasing in all age groups except for the 15-24 age group. The youth are difficult to reach and this relaxed environment was a good place to start a discussion on the issue."
Though there is no cure for the HIV infection, effective antiretroviral (ARV) drugs can control the virus and help prevent transmission so that people with HIV can enjoy healthy and productive lives. UNAIDS estimates that there are currently 1.5 million Tanzanians living with HIV and in 2014, there were almost 70,000 new infections and 50,000 deaths recorded. In 2013, over 1 million Tanzanian children were orphaned as a result of the disease. In this context, raising awareness of the disease is important as early detection and diagnosis could enable infected persons to access prevention and treatment services without delay.
The events were run as part of IOM’s Partnership for Health and Mobility in East and Southern Africa (PHAMESA) which aims to contribute to improved standard of physical, mental, and social wellbeing of migrants and migration affected populations in East and Southern Africa, enabling them to substantially contribute towards the social and economic development of their communities.