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The Issues & Our Response | HIV/AIDS

Staff PhotoHISTORY

For more than twenty-five years, the HIV/AIDS virus has infected men and women in Tanzania, disrupting family life, causing abandonment of countless children, casting unprecedented burdens on health care systems, and undermining economic development. The statistics do not bear witness to the scourge of this epidemic.
AIDS is more than a medical problem; it presents an increasing challenge to socio-economic health and community and family stability. There is no sector of the country, no age group, no population distinction that is not impacted by this disease. Tanzania in 2007 had 14,000 children infected under the age of 14. There were 970,000 AIDS orphans, constituting a group vulnerable to hunger, destitution, and lack of education.

 

The World Bank estimates that due to the AIDS epidemic:

  • Life expectancy by 2010 will revert to forty-seven years instead of the projected fifty-six years in the absence of AIDS.
  • The overall younger work force will have less education, less training and less experience.
    Illiteracy and lack of formal education is on the rise. In the eighties, the level of literacy in Tanzania was around 60%. Today it is below 60%, meaning fewer people understand written messages. The problem begins early: half of those who finish grade school can't read English, and one-fifth can't read Swahili at a second-grade level.

 

The Ministry of Education reported key vulnerability factors particularly relevant to education:

  • aids signDeep-rooted gender-related cultural attitudes and practices contribute to transmission of HIV.
  • Poverty inhibits economic growth with loss of skilled human resources.
  • Female students increasingly being withdrawn from school due to family economics.
  • Youth forced to assist families in work-related activities when parents are infected.
  • Communities less able to provide support for schools.
  • Students, teachers and other personnel share increasing risks of infection in boarding school settings.
  • Female student population is at an ever-increasing risk for infection.
  • High teacher mobility contributes to risky relationships.

 

MWANGAZA'S RESPONSE:

  • Staff PhotoMwangaza integrated HIV/AIDS information into all its program offerings.
  • In 2004, Mwangaza received the Wisconsin Aids Foundation's "Making a Difference" Award.
  • Secondary Schools: Peer and Guardian Training, Seminars for teachers focus on violence, abuse. Life skills: decision-making, gender roles, advocacy for girls' safety.
  • Binti/Mama: Stigma, abuse, protection of girls, gender roles and responsibility.
  • In all programs: music, focus groups, drama, art.
  • 2010 innovative Binti/Mama initiative (below).

 

2010 – 2013 Binti/Mama Initiative

Despite the fact that HIV/AIDS affects all segments of Tanzanian society, adults and teenagers develop their understandings of it isolated from one another. Without the support of the community, there is little hope for reducing the high and escalating rate of HIV/AIDS in secondary school girls. They represent one of the highest risk groups in Tanzania.

Currently, Mwangaza is the only organization using this team approach to address important issues. We gather together 6 girls, 2 teachers and 4 community women—all of whom live and work in the same neighborhood. Issues addressed:

  • Cultural norms that negatively impact girls/women to live healthy lives.
  • Gender-based violence – causes and prevention.
  • How authority figures do or do not support women in school, home, community.
  • Positive and negative peer influences.
  • Decision-making processes.

Over a three-year period, teams representing 18 schools and neighborhood church communities will attend training at Mwangaza. All teams commit to presentations in their school and church communities. A base line is designed to monitor and evaluate change to determine the efficacy of this approach.

Mwangaza will narrow the gap between HIV/AIDS health information taught in Lutheran Secondary Schools and the surrounding community by creating partnerships that link church women with secondary school girls. These students and congregational leaders will be trained together to understand how health information, cultural practices and behaviors relate to healthy lifestyles. By unifying participants, students, teachers, congregational women, Mwangaza's training will empower them to collectively promote not only safe communities for girls and women, but also compassionate care for those living with HIV.

 

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