ZANZIBAR has the lowest HIV epidemic in sub-Sahara Africa with prevalence rate at below 0.4 per cent, according to Zanzibar Aids Commission (ZAC) data but a rising number of people belonging to the vulnerable group and key population is posing new challenges.
The KP is explained as people ‘Injecting Drugs Users (IDUs), Men Having Sex with Men (MSM), and Female Sex Workers (FSWs)’ while vulnerable or most at risk group include homosexuals, and other drugs users.
According to the UNAIDS, the “three zeros” is a global target towards ‘zero new HIV infections,’ zero AIDS-related deaths,’ and zero discrimination by 2030, while the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) and partners launched, in 2014, the 90–90–90 targets are: To diagnose 90 per cent of all HIV-positive persons, provide antiretroviral therapy (ART) for 90 per cent of those diagnosed, and achieve viral suppression for 90 per cent of those treated by end of this year (2020).
The 95-95-95 target is required by 2025 before hitting the 100 per cent by 2030 when all people should know their health status. Mr Sihaba Saadat Iddi from Zanzibar Aids Commission (ZAC) says Zanzibar has managed to maintain the lowest HIV prevalence for over the past decade and already the 90-90-90 target has been generally met by women.
But men and young people have not met the 90-90-90 target because the youth start unprotected sex earlier even before puberty, low use of condom among youth, and low understanding about HIV/AIDS.
Coyness, and insufficient or difficulty in accessing treatment/counseling services to some people particularly the KP are other reasons behind delays in meeting the target which requires all countries to beat the global targets in containing the spread.
Survey indicates that despite ongoing knowledge about the need for hotels, lodges and guest houses, and retails shops to sell condoms, many people remain reluctant to sell them. “Some believe it is against religious teachings and culture. They see it as promoting fornication,” he said.
Medical researches show that correct and consistent use of male and female condoms during vaginal or anal sex can protect against the spread of Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs), including HIV.
He says that the society should accept the fact that today’s youth start to be interested in sex and the issues about sex and sexuality in a younger age than before when open discussions about sexual activities have remained taboo.
Speaking at the ‘Editors Training on Human Rights Based reporting focusing on the Right to health’ Mr Iddi said Zanzibar has concentrated type of HIV Epidemic with prevalence below 0.4 per cent (Unguja 0.5 per cent, Pemba 0.2 per cent), but in Key Population the prevalence is more than one per cent.
He said that statistics are based on data collected from VCT (voluntary counselling and testing) centres; data collected from pregnant mothers during maternal clinics; data from the general population; and THIS (Tanzania Health Indicator Survey)- 2016/2017.
The training to editors organised by ‘Bridge Initiative Organisation (BIO), a local NGO aimed at updating the media practitioners about the ongoing battle to contain the spread of HIV/AIDS and the right to health, and the role of journalists in supporting the country beat the global targets.
Mr Iddi says “In response to the rising cases of HIV in key population, we have been improving testing for the virus and hepatitis, and Prevention of ‘Mother-to-Child Transmission (PMTCT)’ services (preventing HIV from a HIV-positive mother to her child during pregnancy, labour, delivery or breastfeeding).”
He said that the ‘Third Zanzibar National HIV and AIDS Strategic Plan (TZNHASP) 2016/17 – 2020/21’ contains measures being implemented to ensure the country meets the targets as he emphasized on the importance of the media’s role.
TZNHASP contains media component, he said, about producing programmes that promotes actions, while considering protection of Zanzibar culture and norms that can prevent HIV/AIDS transmission, reduce or end stigma, which are vital steps to further control the spread.
“It is your responsibility to show commitment in supporting the government control the spread of HIV in the Country,” Iddi told editors as Ms Fatma Mbwana Hamad from the Ministry of Health’s ‘Zanzibar Integrated HIV, Hepatitis, TB and Leprosy Programme (ZIHHTLP) said also there has been a follow-up and support of patients in Psychiatric hospitals.
The health experts say researches which indicate that unprotected and careless sexual intercourse among youths, stigma, misconceptions, adultery and fornication, as they called on the media to inform and sensitise the public to use HIV prevention and treatment services available in their communities.
“The media is required to air culturally sensitive and appropriate programmes addressing issues related to HIV prevention, stigma reduction and access to care and treatment for eligible PLHIV, and aired widely in Zanzibar,” Ms Hamad said.
Mr Kassim Nyuni from ‘Key Population’ says stigma and discrimination are some of he challenges facing members of the group, urging the media help minimize the problems by producing programmes that educate the public.
He argues that under the UN slogan of ‘Leaving No one Behind,’ KPs are key allies in ending HIV/AIDS in Zanzibar, and that sidelining them through stigma and any other negative attitudes towards them slows down campaign to control the spread of the virus.
A facilitator of the training, Kenneth Simbaya, said the right to health remains a pillar in achieving agenda 2030 and the three zeros and that journalists have a great role to play in achieving the targets.
He informed editors that holding shared human rights is the most feasible way to provide HIV prevention, treatment and care for all, and that the media should promote that people should receive equal health services regardless of their HIV status.
“Specialisation in reporting is good, and for journalists who want specialising reporting health issues, there are still a lot to write about HIV/AIDS. Minimize reporting events, and do better by focusing on issues,” Mr Simbaya emphasized.