New phase of HIV/AIDS awareness campaign launched

The African Medical Research Foundation (AMREF), an international medical NGO, launched on Tuesday the third phase of a media campaign aimed at promoting voluntary HIV testing and counselling in Tanzania.

"We must break the silence and tell the people to do something positive to prevent further spread of the killer disease," Ali Hassan Mwinyi, a former Tanzanian president, said at the campaign launch in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania's commercial capital.

The campaign, sponsored by the UN Agency for International Development (USAID), involves aggressive advertisements, including posters, radio and television spots calling on the people to go for voluntary HIV tests and counselling.

The theme of the new campaign is "Make the right decision. Know your HIV status."

AMREF set up a programme known as "Angaza" (Kiswahili language for 'Enlighten') three years ago, under which centres for voluntary testing and counselling (VCT) were established across the country. So far, there are 40 VCT centres countrywide.

Mwinyi said the HIV/AIDS pandemic was destructive to the economy since it robbed the nation of its youthful manpower. He said the best approach to check the spread of the disease was through behavioural change, particularly stopping promiscuity.

"If we are not careful our nation will soon perish," said the 80-year-old Mwinyi.

A recent survey showed that 7 percent of adult Tanzanians, about two million people, are infected with HIV.

Mwinyi said more efforts should be directed at preventing the 93 percent of the adults from contracting the disease.

"This campaign needs the contribution of everybody, not health workers and politicians, everyone must play his part," he said.

AMREF Country Director Paul Waibale said this campaign would emphasise the importance of tracking one's health through HIV testing.

He said under Angaza, those found HIV-negative were counselled to plan a healthy life and to minimise risk of HIV infection, while those who were HIV-positive were counselled about risk reduction and ways of living positively with their HIV-status.

"Angaza services are provided in a friendly and welcoming environment. Privacy, confidentiality and accuracy of results are guaranteed," Waibale said.