TO HELL WITH AIDS
Bonifasia Mbawala, a waitress at Container bar in Kibaha knows all about
HIV/Aids. It is hard not to know, she says with messages being bombarded
each minute from literally everywhere. Billboards, television,
magazines, radio, newspapers, everywhere one turns, the threat of death
via HIV is but too obvious.
She says she has the basic knowledge of how HIV/AIDS is transmitted –
through heterosex. But she still practices unsafe sex as a sex worker.
The reason is very simple. She needs the money to survive.
“Before going with a man an agreement is reached of using a condom, but
before sexual intercourse a man might refuse to wear a condomÖ If I go
with a man and he refuses to use a condom, I sometimes leave each and
everything to God because at that time I feel that a man with all his
masculinity, I am helpless,” she told The Express.
Mbawala is by no means alone in the business. Aisha Halidi, a waitress
at Free pub in Mbagala said she too is aware that HIV/AIDS is there
although she said the knowledge is just a basic one such as the need to
use condoms during sex. However, because of the meagre income, she is
sometimes obliged to go with men even if they refuse to use a condom,
Sara, a sex worker who waylaids her prey around Kinondoni, too has
complete access to information regarding HIV/AIDS on billboards, radios,
TV channels and in newspapers but she is still in the business.
“There is much information everywhere reminding us of the danger but we
cannot stop because we are in this business to make a living.
“Yes, it kills but we play a game of chance. You may go with somebody
without it or with it, you cannot know. But you have to do it in a order
to earn a living,” she said.
She said men who prefer unprotected sex offer more than those using
condoms do. The negotiable price ranges between Tsh. 5,000 and 50,000
depending on the duration of the game.
“I don’t like prostitution but I am forced to do it to increase my
income, As a maid I only get Tsh 30,000. That is not enough for my
expenses,” Pili, a barmaid at Safari bar in Mbezi told The Express.
“I am very aware of AIDS, there is no way I can go without condoms.
Whoever I go with I use protection, but sometimes the client forces you
to go without, I have faced such situations,” she added.
A prostitute identified as Irene caught at Magomeni said she too is
forced to be in the sex business because of hardship. “I use the money
for food and rent and to provided for my mother ” she said.
The strategy to fight the pandemic and the millions of shillings thrown
into them is nothing but a waste, Tanzanians said in a survey conducted
by The Express during the World Aids Day Monday this week.
Much of the resources directed to fight HIV/AIDS in Tanzania is used on
awareness campaigns but the method is not self-fulfilling and more is
While people in urban areas are over sensitised to the point of becoming
insensitive, vital messages are not reaching rural areas. Even in urban
areas, small focused groups keep getting the same messages again and
again, the survey revealed, while others not exposed to a liberal
society remain ignorant, with fatal results.
“Forget about rural areas, here in Dar only there are those who believe
Aids is rich people’s disease. They strongly believe it cannot touch
them. True, they do not have the money to engage in risky attitudes
where they can contract HIV but we live in closed communities.
Interaction between people at all level happens and many contract Aids
not because they themselves play around but because they get it from
their unfaithful partners,” one community elder in Mbagala, Dar told The
Most organisations involved in the war against HIV/AIDS have formed
their fronts in hotels, where brainstorming, workshops, seminars,
presentations and assessments take place – all aimed at fighting AIDS,
but to date statistics show no improvement in the fight.
There is no concrete information available as to how much is spent
annually on the war against AIDS but most money is spent on awareness
And sensitising people alone is not working as per the sex workers
interviewed. Being the group of people at high risk of being infected
with the epidemic than any other group, complete access to awareness and
information has had no impact on their behaviour.
Multiple approaches including empowering sex victims is what is needed,
some claim. UNAIDS Director General Peter Piot, when talking on BBC’s
Talking Point programme recently said: “Information isn’t everything, it
is important to support people living with HIV to come out, provide safe
space, it’s important that they go and talk in schools, on the radio and
the TV” but it is not enough.
There should be incentives to encourage people to come out and test,
other respondents said. Uganda, which is cited as a success story, has
created The AIDS Support Organisations (TASO) centres where victims
gather to get some drugs and food.
A lot of fund has been made available for HIV especially in Africa and
donors have agreed to offer even more support.
The US government is set to approve US $2.4 billion to support some
developing countries fight the scourge.
And the UNAIDS wants US $10 billion spent in 2005 and another US $15
billion spent in 2007.
But Tanzanians are very skeptical of these funds benefiting the nation
fight the pandemic.
“Tanzania is one of the beneficiaries and therefore sound policies and
strategies should be devised now in order to spend the upcoming cash in
a manner that will lead to attainment of the objectives,” Albert Muhango
The problem for funders is that they cannot stop funds since there is an
obvious need for money to save African nations from perishing but so
far, in Tanzania, for example, the money has not changes grim
Dr. Elly Ndyetabula of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)
Poverty and Gender said UNDP provides funding for HIV/AIDS programmes
but it cannot work single handedly to achieve the objective without
making use of a network.
“We provide financial support and technical capacity but we need close
collaboration with other plays particularly those who can go to the
grassroots levels to make the message go across as we don’t have the
capability of going all the way down single-handedly,” he said.
He said, presently, UNDP is working with village governments, local
governments, civil society who can deliver the education on HIV/AIDS,
adding that the most important is for all players to ensure that
financial support provided goes down to the grassroots’ level.
But religious leaders maintain that the reason all the campaigns are
failing is the fact that people are being confused by the promotion of
Father Stephane Kaombe of catholic church who has written extensively on
AIDS is adamant that the war against HIV infections would not be
successful with on going promotions of condoms because that prompts
adultery and promiscuity that contrive the scriptures.
“We should stop sensitising people that they should use protection if
they fail to abstain.” He questioned why the thought of failing from
abstinence is even raised. “Even when President Nyerere declared a war
against Idd Amin he said we have the ability to fight the enemy,
therefore we should also confront HIV. The fight must involve people in
the village. Transparency does not mean to advocate the use of condoms,”
Sheikh Suleiman Gorogosi, of Bakwata also re-enforced that the Islamic
faith does not promote the use of condoms or safe sex, people must wait
He said Bakwata gives priority to educating the society on dangers of