Source: Tanzania Daily News (Dar es Salaam)
The average HIV/AIDS prevalence among people aged between 15 and 49 in Tanzania has dropped from seven per cent in the last ten years to 5.1 in 2012, Tanzania Commission for AIDS (TACAIDS) revealed.

However, at a prevalence of 14.8 per cent, Njombe Region has the highest infection rate followed by Iringa (9.1), Mbeya (9), Ruvuma (7) and Dar es Salaam (6.9), while Pemba (0.3) was the least affected followed by Unguja (1.2).

TACAIDS Executive Chairperson Dr Fatma Mrisho said during the launching of the 2011-2012 Tanzania HIV and Malaria Indicator Survey Results (THMIS) in Dar es Salaam yesterday that infection was more prevalent in urban areas as compared to rural areas.

The HIV prevalence data were obtained from blood samples voluntarily provided by women and men interviewed in the survey. Of the 20,811 women and men aged 15-49, 90 per cent of women and 79 per cent of men provided specimens for HIV testing.

The country's population now stands at 44.9 million. Dr Mrisho said that men were less infected compared to women. She mentioned male circumcision as one of the factors that have helped bring down the rate of infection among them. According to TACAIDS results HIV prevalence is 6.2 and 3.8 per cent among women and men respectively.

However, President Jakaya Kikwete, who was the chief guest at the launch was quick to caution against careless behaviour among circumcised men. He observed that having undergone the cut did not make one completely immune, noting that it only lowered the chances of them being infected by 60 per cent.

"Circumcision is not a panacea for the disease," he insisted. According to the survey, men in the 15-49 age bracket reported having been circumcised, with circumcision being more common in urban areas (94 per cent) than in rural areas (64 per cent).

It showed that more than half of the regions on mainland Tanzania show levels of male circumcision of 50 per cent or more. The survey further revealed that the prevalence of male circumcision is lowest in Rukwa, 28 per cent, Simiyu (30) and Shinyanga (32), while in contrast, the practice in Zanzibar, Dar es Salaam, Mtwara, Tanga, Lindi and Coast regions is almost universal."

Dr Mrisho also noted that the infection was highest among women and men who are widowed, divorced and separated while it is less among women and men who have never been married. She mentioned girls aged between 23 and 24 as the most infected as they account for 6.6 per cent while boys of the same age are infected by 2.8.

According to Dr Mrisho, HIV testing and receiving results among women has increased from 37 per cent in 2007/08 to 62 in 2011/12 while among men it has almost doubled from 27 to 47 per cent. President Kikwete said that HIV/AIDS prevalence was still worrisome to the government, emphasizing that the war against the disease has to be intensified to ensure in the next ten years infections fall below three per cent.

He said that about 3bn/- was spent on the survey and believed that it would help the authorities know places that needed more attention. The last survey conducted in 2007/08, put the infection rate at 5.7 per cent. According to the President as of now over 18 million people have showed up for voluntary counselling and testing in the country.

He insisted that the best approach to fight HIV/AIDS was to test as that would help to know one's status. Mr Kikwete also warned against stigma and discrimination against those living with HIV saying that all people are equal and will remain equal despite their HIV status.

"As of now about two million people have lost lives due to HIV/AIDS. The disease has also led to massive poverty to some families and to the nation at large. The government is fighting hard to prevent new infections," the President said. Prime Minister Mizengo Pinda said that despite the good results that show that government's efforts were becoming fruitful further attempts were still required to win the fight.

The Minister for Finance and Economic Affairs Dr William Mgimwa said that the report was designated to provide up-to-date information on the prevalence of HIV to enable the government to re-examine workable plans to address the problem.

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