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IRIN PlusNews HIV/AIDS News and information service | East Africa | TANZANIA: Eliminating stigma in conservative Zanzibar crucial to HIV/AIDS fight | Care Treatment, Prevention, Stigma Human rights Law | News Items
Friday 15 December 2006
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TANZANIA: Eliminating stigma in conservative Zanzibar crucial to HIV/AIDS fight

[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]

©  Issa Yussuf/IRIN

Talking about sex is still taboo

STONE TOWN, 29 May (PLUSNEWS) - AIDS activists on the semi-autonomous island of Zanzibar are making every effort to reduce discrimination against people living with HIV/AIDS, a Herculean task in a society where talking about sex is still taboo.

Amina Kessy, a member of the Zanzibar Association of People living with HIV/AIDS (ZAPHA+), has personally experienced the stigma that accompanies discovery of an HIV-positive status - only her father still communicates with her.

"Almost the whole family and neighbours isolated me, and I decided to find a room for rent where I could live peacefully," she said. "But when my landlady learnt that I was HIV-positive, she demanded that I vacate the house."

Never one to take things lying down, Kessy called the police, who said her landlady had no legal grounds for evicting her. But such treatment means she has had to develop a thick skin, and she knows that the incident with her landlady will not be the last time she experiences prejudice.

Many of the 182 members of ZAPHA+ face similar discrimination, Kessy said, but thousands more HIV-positive Zanzibaris were too afraid to reveal their status. The government estimates that about 8,000 of the population of one million are living with the virus.

"Unfortunately, even those living with HIV/AIDS have self-stigma and cannot talk," she said, noting that her organisation was one of only a handful involved in delivering anti-stigma messages.

At a recent anti-stigma workshop for female members of parliament, activists called for laws against discrimination to be implemented in Zanzibar.

"One of the most significant barriers to identifying and treating those with HIV/AIDS is stigma. As national leaders and important role models to women and girls, you [legislators] play a critical role in reducing the stigma associated with HIV/AIDS," said Pamela White, a representative from the US President's Emergency plan for AIDS Relief, which supported the workshop organised by PACT, an international NGO that focuses on empowering local communities.

She also said silence and inaction on stigma had a negative effect on the ability to help orphans and vulnerable children affected by AIDS. "Without talking about the issue, these innocent children will pay the price," she pointed out.

"We heard a lot about stigma in Zanzibar, where people - including children - live a difficult life because of discrimination," said Jamillah Mwanjilisi, the PACT-Tanzania programme officer and one of the workshop's organisers. "We have presented the female MPs with some skills on how they can use their position to control stigma."

Acknowledging the seriousness of the problem in Zanzibar, minister of tourism Samia Suluhu Hassan said religious leaders, teachers, parents and government leaders "must join hands to reduce stigma in society."


Recent TANZANIA Reports
African Muslim clerics divided on condom use ,  6/Dec/06
Muslim clerics begin meeting on gender violence, HIV/AIDS,  14/Nov/06
Insurance for HIV-positive employees inspires confidence,  8/Nov/06
ARV rollout slowly improving,  25/Oct/06
New roads expose remote areas to HIV - report,  20/Sep/06
· AIDS Media Center
· The Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis & Malaria
· International Community of Women Living with HIV/AIDS
· International HIV/AIDS Alliance

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