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"One of the big challenges facing Tanzanians is to ensure that people, who are not yet infected with HIV remain uninfected and safe," said Dr Ali Shein, former Vice President of URT and now President of Zanzibar

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Listen to the Bell: HIV/Aids prevention through zero grazing Print E-mail
By Simon Kivamwo

A new campaign to promote HIV prevention through faithfulness known as Sikia Kengele, a Kiswahili word for Listen to the Bell was launched this week.

It will be a national initiative to encourage zero grazing and will use the symbol of a bell to represent ``a wake up call`` for behaviour change. Staff Writer Simon Kivamwo narrates�

The Sikia Kengele initiative which is being implemented by the Tanzania Marketing and Communication (T-MARC) Project with support from the U.S. President`s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), believes that everyone--regardless one\'s age or religion--can use faithfulness to keep HIV away from themselves and their families.

The launch of the initiative, that through it Tanzanians will be urged to get tested for HIV and remain faithful to their partners, took place on Tuesday this week in Chalinze, Coast Region at the Nyundo grounds, on your way to Morogoro and beyond.

Officials from T-MARC, a local social marketing company behind the initiative say the sikia kengele initiative has been designed specifically to support the work of the Tanzania Commission for AIDS (TACAIDS) and the Tanzanian Ministry of Health and Social Welfare\'s National AIDS Control Program (NACP.

The way it has been designed is that, the Sikia Kengele will mobilize communities in high-risk areas including along major transportation corridors and in and around mining and plantation areas.

Community influentials such as politicians, religious, health leaders and peer educators will be designated `Bell Ringers,` charged with igniting talk on risks associated with having multiple sexual partners and the benefits of knowing one\'s status and remaining HIV-free.

According to Abdulrazak Badru, T-MARC Communications Director, bell ringers will champion Sikia Kengele messages in bars, stadiums, places of worship, farms, bus stations and other points of interaction.

``Giant Bell entertainment sessions designed to mobilize communities into action will not shy away from addressing negative behaviours such as the sugar daddy phenomena or use of multiple partners,`` says Badru and adds: Radio spots aired on three national stations will support these activities to reach a wider audience.

Speaking at the launching event, former Tanzanian President Ali Hassan Mwinyi stresses, ``Do not ignore the dangers of having multiple sexual partners. Those who fail to change their behaviour now can only suffer the consequences later.``

Mwinyi, one time, a Chairperson of the defunct National HIV/AIDS Advisory Board says while other preventive means such as condom use are being harmonised by various stakeholders, fidelity/faithfulness between partners in its part, has so far not received enough trumpeters
Generally, there are three very successful strategies that individuals can use to avoid sexual transmission of HIV; these are abstinence, faithfulness/partner reduction, and condoms.

Faithfulness is a sure way of avoiding contracting AIDS. We are obliged to fight hard, I mean to be more serous and remain cool within our wedlock. Let us not behave like butterflies which can freely fly and land on a flower after another.

We should respect our wedlock and ourselves as well. Each of us should respect his or her partner, says the retired president, also known to be a man of humour.

Mwinyi further warns, the aftermaths of not being faithful will not affect the individual alone but also the rest of innocent close relatives and friends.

The former president expresses that he is impressed by the Sikia Kengele initiative simply because it is going to involve both religious and community leaders to ensure that the very message reaches people from all walks of life within the Tanzanian community.

Pamela White, USAID/Tanzania director, commented, ``Everyone should be talking about faithfulness.

In Uganda, faithfulness has contributed to important drops in HIV prevalence. Tanzanians should apply these lessons here. Social norms must change - protect your loved ones. Keep HIV away!``

In Tanzania we`ve heard lots about abstinence - particularly for young people, and we`ve heard about condoms. But we don\'t hear enough about faithfulness.

That\'s too bad, because faithfulness is great. Everyone should be talking about faithfulness.
Why?, Because you still get to have sex. But only under certain conditions�

If you are married you stick to your married partners, and if you are single, you have to find someone you like, and someone who likes you. You have to go get tested for HIV.

If you are both negative - you have to protect each other by sticking together, and if one of you is positive you should use a condom to continue protecting your partner.

According to White, women bear the brunt of AIDS in many ways - more women contract it and more women have to take care of their sick babies and relatives.

Women`s HIV prevalence is related to marital status, to wealth and to education. Formerly married women have higher HIV rates at 18% than those who are currently, or never have been married.

Women who have completed primary and some secondary school have higher rates of HIV (8%) than those who have no or little primary education (5%).

And the richest women have an 11.4 % HIV rate compared with 2.8 % of the poorest women. So women protect yourselves! And men, respect the women in your lives enough to protect them too, she says.

White further adds: the initiative we are talking about today, Sikia Kengele, is Tanzania`s opportunity to make Zero Grazing work for you. Peer educators, outreach workers, and faith leaders will be coming to you in the next few months to talk about the benefits of faithfulness.

According to the USAID boss, radio spots would remind people to be faithful when they are away from home.

``Big events will be coming to your communities to gather the people and to talk about and recommit to choosing to be safe from HIV by remaining faithful to each other
I can hear you now� wondering whether or not faithfulness is really possible.

But it is. People use all sorts of excuses to justify why they can\'t be faithful... They say they were tempted by the other person, or that they need to experience new things, or that it is just not right for a Tanzanian - particularly a Tanzanian man - to limit himself.

Take nearby Uganda where HIV prevalence went from 15% in 1991 to 5% by 2001.

The age of sexual debut, casual and commercial sex trends, partner reduction, and condom use all played roles in decreasing the HIV rates.

But the most important thing of all in reducing HIV incidence appears to have been a decrease in multiple sexual partnerships - which they called Zero Grazing (Lisha Pale Pale). And that is another way of saying faithfulness.

  • SOURCE: Sunday Observer
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