A Call has been made for the development and implementation of comprehensive national policies addressing the provision of sexual and reproductive health services as well as promoting gender equality to protect young people from new HIV/Aids infections.
Mbeya City Council Multi-Sectoral Aids Committee (CMAC) chairman Alexander Maemba sounded the call when addressing students of St. Mary’s International Schools – Mbeya campus at the 28th International AIDS Candlelight Memorial (IACMD) Day held last weekend.
The event, which attracted more that 1000 people, was jointly organised by Youth Education through Sports Tanzania (YES Tanzania) and the school. He called on the government and other stakeholders to invest more in educating young people on the disease.
“There is no way we will be able to curb HIV/Aids if our interventions do not target young people, particularly in areas whose services are not youth friendly,” explained Maemba.
He said there was a need to improve access to condoms and high quality, affordable and confidential sexual and reproductive health services, including diagnosis and treatment of HIV/Aids and other sexually transmitted diseases (STIs).
Addressing the same gathering, a person living with HIV/Aids (PLHA) and a long time HIV/Aids activist Douglas Kisunga urged youths and other people to behave responsibly because living with the virus “is not something one would prefer to.”
“If you are not infected with the virus, I urge you to remain negative…and those who are infected already should become role models in the fight against the pandemic, not spreading it further,” he said.
Father Magnus from the Catholic Youth Centre (CYC) hailed St. Mary’s and YES Tanzania for organising the event, which he said symbolised love to those living with the disease.
“Let us continue with this kind of love now and then to PLHAs and orphans. We need to take measures to make sure that sports help us to remain healthy,” he said.
Mbeya City Council HIV/Aids coordinator Anos Mbonekela reminded the audience that stigma and discrimination was the greatest enemy in the fight against HIV/Aids.
He said due to stigma and discrimination, PLHAs were not prefering going public and were trying to lead normal lives as if they didn’t carry the virus for fear of being stigmatised.
YES Tanzania chairman Kenneth Simbaya said that the programme was committed to fostering development and strengthening young people’s education through sports.
He said ignoring young people’s education was equivalent to ignoring the future of the nation.
Organisers of the event said, IACMD is observed every year on the third of Sunday of May to remember those who have lost their lives due to HIV/Aids, advocate for increased access to health services and fight stigmatisation and discrimination.