HIV/AIDS campaign launched to target East African youth

An American AIDS organisation has launched a regional mass communication campaign that hopes to sensitise youth about the dangers of HIV/AIDS and will culminate in major music concerts in the three East African countries.

The organisation, Africans Unite Against Aids Globally (AUAAG), has teamed up with the health ministries in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania for the 'Celebrate Life' campaign and aims to import 10 'Celebrate Life' "containers" into each country by the end of the year, an AUAGG statement said.

"The containers will serve as a refreshing approach to the stigma associated with Voluntary Counselling and Testing (VCT). These outlets will not only provide information about malaria, nutrition, sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), HIV/AIDS and TB, but they will also provide counselling and HIV/AIDS testing to the public," the statement said.

"To encourage the youth to visit these centres, tickets to the 'Celebrate Life' concert will be available there," it added.

AUAAG announced that Kool and The Gang - a US group that has been performing for the last 30 years - would be headline musicians at the free concerts, but regional musicians would also be performing.

"Recognising the power in music - that has liberated Africa from colonial rule and which brought 'food' to the starving African children in the late 70's - we are encouraged to once again use this strong weapon to fight AIDS in our region," Tanzanian Prime Minister Frederick Sumaye said at the launch in Dar es Salaam on Friday.

Through the campaign, AUAAG is hoping to promote the idea that while millions are infected with the virus, in Tanzania, for example, over 80 percent of the population are HIV negative, AUAAG chairman Tiahmo Ra'uf told journalists and prospective sponsors of the event.

"Too much emphasis has been put on the affected and the infected. We must change this approach. We have a responsibility of protecting those of negative status in the East Africa region," he added.

Nonetheless, Tanzanian Deputy Minister for Health Dr. Hussein Mwinyi reminded the press of the destruction the disease has wrought upon sub-Saharan countries such as Tanzania. He noted that Tanzanians between the ages of 15 and 24 account for 60 percent of new HIV/AIDS infections in the country, although they represent only 20 percent of the population.

"Aids has been slowly eroding the little gain and achievements we have made in past years in terms of social, economic and health development," he said.