March 15, 2012

Protest over red ribbons for HIV pupils

In Kibaha district, north-west of Dotoma, pupils living with HIV are being issued with a red ribbon. The situation has caused anger among health campaigners in the country. According to a BBC journalist, the chairperson of the Kibaha Association of People Living with HIV/AIDS said that the practice was not only unethical but illegal, because “there are laws that can punish those revealing other’s health status”.

Heads of the schools defended their actions. They said that the red ribbons were wished by parents. Families of sufferers have been concerned their children should be excused tasks or physical activities which may affect their health. The ribbon was therefore designed to alert teachers to children living with HIV/AIDS, so they were not asked to perform duties such as fetching water or sweeping school yards.
According to the UNAIDS 2010 report, there were around 200,000 children (under 15) living with HIV/AIDS in 2009. Among the adult population of Tanzania (15-49 years), 5.6% of people or around 1.2 million people have contracted the disease, with deaths in 2009 estimated at 86,000.

However, national surveys show the prevalence of the disease is declining significantly among young men and women thanks to a number of programmes. Nevertheless, campaigners still argue that health and awareness messages need to be improved, particularly among the young. But the campaigners are all in agreement that asking school pupils to wear red ribbons is definitely not one of the ways to do this. (sadocc)

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