Ndugai: Stigma killed MPs’ AIDS committee

21Feb 2020
Marc Nkwame
The Guardian
Ndugai: Stigma killed MPs’ AIDS committee

MEMBERS of Parliament living with HIV/Aids face stigma from their colleagues, a situation showing how far Tanzania has to go in educating the public about the disease.

Addressing a gathering of religious leaders meeting under the auspices of the National Council of People Living with HIV /Aids (NACOPHA), Ndugai said the baseless mark of disgrace led to the collapse of a parliamentary committee on the issue.

The meeting called to address stigma affecting persons living with HIV and Aids heard the House speaker affirm that he was compelled to disband the Parliamentary Committee on HIV-Aids MPs fell out in disagreements.

The Speaker then formed another committee as provided for in the statutes after the previous one got split down the middle, he stated.

Ndugai who was the chief guest at the meeting said that MPs chosen to form the previous HIV/Aids Committee had resigned, objecting to stigma from other MPs in the committee.

 “Our only hope now lies with religious leaders to help the nation in the fight against stigma, as these spiritual personnel command large audiences that respect them. It means whatever they are told in churches or mosques will stick,” he declared.

The head of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Tanzania (ELCT), Bishop Dr Frederick Shoo admitted that essentially 90 percent of the 60 million Tanzanians are members of one faith or another, which implies that directives relayed through religious bodies are bound to be effective.

NACOPHA chairperson Leticia Morici Kapela said at least 1.6 million people are affected in Tanzania but HIV is not the problem, insisting that the real drawback is sidelining victims through stigma.

The Arusha meeting takes place in line with the UNAIDS target of ensuring the 95-95-95 goal before 2030.

That target means 95 percent in treatment for suppression of viral loads, 95 percent knowledge of HIV status for those affected and 95 percent reduction of new infections.

Zawadi Mahenge, a victim of stigma, said she was harassed by close relatives including her mother and her mother- in-law.

NACOPHA is a nationally recognized organ coordinating efforts of PLHIV, the highest body and voice representing all groups and organizations or individual PLHIV countrywide.