Last week saw a number of journalists returning home or to their workplaces presumably a little richer and happier than they were only moments earlier: they had won an array of awards in a competition jointly run by the Tanzania Commission for Aids (Tacaids) and the Association of Journalists Against Aids in Tanzania (AJAAT).
According to the commission, the competition was meant to sensitise, mobilise and motivate media practitioners into making as many critical analyses on the prevalence, incidence and impact of Aids in Tanzania as they had resources for.
Those participating in the competition were also expected to come up with “well-researched” reports with findings, conclusions and recommendations that the relevant agencies would find invaluable in complementing their efforts to tame the epidemic.
As noted, this time the thrust was on ways to ensure sustainable access of Aids services for marginalised people and those most at risk of being infected with HIV.
This would include highlighting the social and other implications or consequences of continuing to sideline these especially vulnerable groups – and suggest ways out of the quagmire of ignorance, indifference and stigmatisation that often and seriously makes efforts to combat the pandemic fail to reach the desired goals.
It was noteworthy that AJAAT meanwhile commended the media for having played what he said was a pivotal role in the war on Aids principally through the information, education and sensitisation component.
In a very important way, the association stood reminded of the fact that health or medical interventions can have a lasting impact only if they involve an adequately informed public – which is precisely where, how and why the media join the crusade.
But while the presentation of the Tacaids/AJAAT awards were very much an inspiring development, medical sources close to Ardhi University intimated almost simultaneously that financial constraints hindered the Dar es Salaam-based institution of higher learning from translating into action the massive awareness most students have on the havoc Aids can cause unless arrested soon enough.
We know that, partly owing to the global economic downturn, AIDS funds to countries most in need of assistance is no longer coming in the form of “showers of blessings” as happened previously but is now slowly but surely dispatched in the form of “mercy drops” – with the horizon promising to be even bleaker in the years ahead.
There is no denying, though, that there have been times when we have had it so good in terms of funding programmes and initiatives aimed at pulling the sting out of the pandemic that we had practically no reason not to register more noticeable achievements than we actually did.
In the face of the shortage of funds that has begun staring us in the face, it is time we put to greater use the three decades of experience we have with interventions meant to tame HIV infections and the spread of Aids.
This means consolidating working links among all stakeholders, without counting out or budgeting out even a single one. After all, as the popular saying goes, people discriminate against one another but HIV and Aids do not discriminate against anybody. These are desperate times; we must move accordingly.