Last week’s HIV event at the Tegeta Friday Market was a spectacular success. The event was a collaborative effort between Art in Tanzania and Pasada, a Catholic-based organisation working against the spread of AIDS. “I thought realistically we could test 50 people” says Emma Tykesson Skinbjerg, the medical Team Leader at Art in Tanzania. “But we got 195 people checked!” Emma exclaims. The best thing however, was the fact that only three people were HIV positive.
Dr. Henry Mwizanduru, from Pasada, was equally thrilled by the success. “Normally the rates are higher” he explains. About 7% of the population in Tanzania are affected by AIDS. Events like HIV testing hep to reduce this rate, but not a lot of people come for it.
“The medication is free in Tanzania” explains Emma, “but people don’t want to be tested at their local clinic because then people would know that they have HIV. The main problem here explains Emma “is the stigma around it”
Pasada’s team of counselors and nurses took turns administering the test and sharing the results of each test confidentially. Each patient only participates in the test for a minute, as a nurse takes blood from his or her finger. The consultation process lasts a little longer. If a person is HIV negative, they are given information about HIV and how they can prevent the transmission of the disease. If a person is HIV positive, they are referred to Pasada, who provides them with additional counselling.
Art in Tanzania volunteers helped out in the event by face painting crowds of children, and by distributing handwritten pamphlets in Swahili about the confidential, free HIV testing.
Special thanks must also be given to the Danish jewelry company, Pilgrim who donated two hundred and fifty pieces of jewellery for the event. Among the pieces of jewellery were gold earrings, necklaces, bracelets and charms. Emma traces back much of the event’s success to the company’s generosity.
By David Tan