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Spotlight Series: HIV Stigma and Discrimination
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Secrecy Blamed for HIV/AIDS Spread in Tanzania

November 19, 2001

Health authorities blame parents' and teachers' lack of openness about HIV/AIDS as one of the factors contributing to the spread of disease in Tanzania. A recent survey conducted by the National AIDS Control Program (NACP) in some parts of the country showed that youths "are not being told the truth about the HIV/AIDS pandemic."

The research in 40 districts of mainland Tanzania, blames the community for not sharing issues on sexual relations with children. "Many young men and women interviewed complained that parents and teachers treat discussions on sexual relations as a taboo," the study said. It said the fact that many associate sex with European culture constitutes a stumbling block to the HIV/AIDS campaign in the country.

The Education Ministry urged parents and guardians to reverse the dangerous trend and save the children from destruction. "Whether we decide to remain silent or whether we remain embarrassed, this disease will continue to kill our young generation. We must act swiftly," says Ricky Mpama, a senior official of the ministry. According to Mpama, "It is a grave mistake to believe that today's youths will wait until they are mature enough to learn about sexual relations and the HIV/AIDS scourge," Mpama said, adding: "They must be taught . . . a practical method of protecting themselves from the disease."

Tanzanian educators argue that since children are exposed to adulthood through the mass media, the Internet and social gatherings, they cannot wait to hear about HIV/AIDS because "they know too much." "We understand the cultural background of the parents and respect their views. However, we are defeated by circumstances that compel every individual to play a role in the campaign to halt the spread of the disease," says Verdiana Mung'ong'o, chairperson of the Tanzania Parliamentary Committee Against AIDS. He said although the African culture embodies noble values, some traditions or customs that impede the fight against the disease must be discarded.


Back to other CDC news for November 19, 2001

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Adapted from:
Panafrican News Agency

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This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.
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