THE Tanzania Commission for AIDS (TACAIDS) in collaboration with other implementing partners have partnered to launch faith-based leaders resource tools to encourage men and children on use of HIV and AIDS services in the country.
The launch of these materials aims to enable religious leaders in various religious settings to have accurate HIV/ AIDS information, including HIV testing and treatment to improve the delivery of ‘new messages of hope’ to their congregations with the motto ‘Chaguo jipya, Matibabu Mapya, Wakati mpya, Tumaini jipya’.
Speaking in Dar es Salaam during the launch of the resources, TACAIDS Executive Director, Dr Leonard Maboko said that in Tanzania and many countries around the world, they look at faith-based structures as an integral part of the community, and have durable relationships built on trust and ministry.
“With over 80 per cent of the adult population in Tanzania being faith believers, the adapted new messages present a unique opportunity to accelerate the attainment of the 95-95-95 HIV/AIDS target endeavours,” said Dr Maboko.
He said that the purpose of the engagement of faith-based leaders towards the adapted ‘New Messages of Hope’ is equipping faith leaders with information and resources they need to break the silence and help bridge the gaps in HIV testing, treatment, care and support for men and children.
TACAIDS recognises the contribution made by religious leaders in the country in the fight against HIV and AIDS, by creating an enabling environment for Tanzanians to access HIV and AIDS services.
He said according to the country’s 2016/17 statistics, the HIV prevalence in Tanzania has dropped from 5.3 percent to 4.7 percent for people aged 15- 49 years, adding that religious leaders have played a significant role to this reduction.
Speaking at the same event, USAID PEPFAR official Anathy Thambinagam said that religious leaders and faith based organisations are vital in delivering key messages and preventive measures to the community, saying that they are key influencers and are much trusted by their believers and therefore are key in transforming attitudes and the way the society think about HIV.
She said the US government through USAID is strongly supporting TACAIDS and its partners in rolling out and reaching faith based organisations in delivering key issues and information to the community.
Speaking on the tool launch, the USAID Tulonge Afya HIV/ AIDS and TB advisor, Mr Michael Luvanda said the tools include “New Messages of Hope” guide for Christians and Muslims, devotional resource calendars for Muslims and Christians and faith and community posters focusing on both.
The materials are aimed at addressing key behaviours on HIV Testing, Enrollment in care & treatment, ART adherence and retention in care community support, TB prevention therapy uptake and completion and the importance of viral load testing.
Speaking at the launch, BAKWATA General Secretary, Mr Nuhu Jabir Mruma said religious leaders recognize that these tools have come at a right time when the government aims to end the spread of HIV by 2030.
“We are very happy to be part of this great initiative of ensuring that the nation achieves the 95-95-95 targets. “As religious leaders, we are committed on the implementation of this campaign. As people near and close to the community, we will use our platforms to deliver this message to our believers” he said.
It is coordinated by TACAIDS and implemented by partners including Pact, World Vision, Amref Tanzania, MDH, ICAP, AGPAHI, CRS, CSSC. The initiative is funded by PEPFAR.