Kikwete: With GGML’s campaign in HIV fight, our youths should be wise

BY this time, every one of us individually must have lost a friend if not a relative or a neighbour to Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) and Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS) in the society.

For that matter, we all know that that the scourge is a threat to social and economic development.

To address it, treatment of HIV/ AIDS patients must be accompanied with other social measures to enhance their physical, mental, and social wellbeing.

In a nutshell, HIV/AIDS can lead to poverty, affecting particularly women and young people. With the background, former President Jakaya Kikwete has commended Geita Gold Mining Limited (GGML) for leading the way in supporting the government’s goals in the fight against the disease through the GGML KiliChallenge 2023 campaign.

The campaign, initiated by GGML in collaboration with the Tanzania Commission for AIDS (TACAIDS) in 2002, aims to raise funds to support the AIDS Trust Fund (ATF) and continue the fight against HIV/AIDS.

Speaking at an event to flag off 35 Mount Kilimanjaro climbers and 26 cyclists to raise funds for the campaign, Dr Kikwete called on young people to be cautious about careless sex.

The event took place at the Machame Gate in Hai District, Kilimanjaro region, where the climbers will ascend and return on July 20th this year.

He stated that it is evident that HIV infections still exist, despite reaching 4.7 per cent, and it is important for Tanzanians, especially the youth, to be cautious about unprotected sex.

At this point, it is evident that the partner you get may be carrying one of the sexually transmitted infections (STI) also acquired from may be having risky sex, raising your chances of getting HIV.

The behaviours that lead to an STI infection, such as sex with many partners, unprotected sex, or sex with partners you don’t know, are the same behaviours that increase your risk of HIV.

That is why Dr Kikwete added: “If you plan a day and time to meet, don’t forget protection… Let your partner know that you will bring it (read HIV) or take your own. Let’s not forget to remind each other.” Again, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO)- More than 1 million STIs are acquired every day globally.

In 2020, it estimated 374 million new infections with 1 of 4 STIs: chlamydia (129 million), gonorrhoea (82 million), syphilis (7.1 million) and trichomoniasis (156 million).

An estimated 296 million people are living with chronic hepatitis B globally. To fight the scourge, Dr Kikwete also commended the government for continuing to support the focus on addressing HIV/AIDS and increasing the budget, but emphasised that the funds are not enough, so it is important for various stakeholders to support the ongoing campaign.

“The climbers of Mount Kilimanjaro are heroes, and I congratulate them for setting an example to be emulated. I encourage and wish them good luck, as they have made the courageous decision to sacrifice themselves for others. Congratulations,” he said.

On his part, GGML Managing Director Terry Strong thanked the government for their support in the campaign. He also wished the participants climbing Mount Kilimanjaro good luck and prayed for their safe return.

Commenting, TACAIDS Acting Director, Jerome Kamwela said they will continue to collaborate with GGML to ensure that the goal of zero new infections, zero stigma, and zero AIDS-related deaths is achieved by 2030.

Deputy Minister in the Office of the Prime Minister for Policy, Coordination, and Parliament, Ummy Nderiananga, stated that the government continues to support the fight against HIV/AIDS by increasing the budget for the AIDS Trust Fund from 14 billion to 25 billion shillings.

Nurdin Babu, the Regional Commissioner of Kilimanjaro, announced that the region plans to contribute 51 million shillings to the campaign, and they have received 31 million shillings in cash from various donors. Henry Mazura, the leader of the climbing expedition, said they are prepared to climb the mountain and return safely.

He also thanked the government, GGML, and other stakeholders for motivating them in this difficult journey, which symbolises the enthusiasm for fundraising for the campaign.

At this point, you may ask yourself why the government and stakeholders are taking a central lead to fight HIV/ AIDS.

The answer is – There is no cure for HIV infection. It weakens the body’s ability to fight other infections, and without treatment people will become more susceptible to other severe illnesses such as tuberculosis, cryptococcal meningitis, bacterial infections and some cancers including lymphomas and Kaposi’s sarcoma.

However, with access to effective HIV prevention, diagnosis, treatment and care, including for opportunistic infections, it has become a manageable chronic health condition, enabling people living with it to lead long and healthy lives.

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