by Arwen McKechnie
Sunday marked the 25th year of remembrance and action on the worldwide pandemic of HIV/AIDS. According to UNAIDS, since AIDS was first identified in the 1980s, it is estimated to have killed 30 million people around the world. There are currently approximately 34 million people living with HIV globally, many of them in sub-Saharan Africa.
HIV/AIDS is framed differently here in Tanzania than it is in Canada: though all that stigma continues, the prevalence of HIV means that people are aware of the disease in ways that they are not in Canada.
While in Canada, women are becoming a larger percentage of the people living with HIV, in sub-Saharan Africa women have been the majority from almost the beginning. HIV in Tanzania is primarily spread through heterosexual contact, so there is no pretence that infection is something that only happens to certain people who engage in certain behaviours, in the way that there still is in Canada.
Red ribbons flower on street signs, as graffiti on walls, on the t-shirts of women and men walking through the busy streets of Moshi, the town in which I live.
Moshi is the main city of Kilimanjaro Region, home to the mountain and associated tourism, and many agricultural communities growing coffee, bananas and maize. Mount Kilimanjaro dominates the horizon when it’s visible and is hidden behind a wall of clouds so completely at other times that you could forget it is there. It’s a beautiful place.
The social problems that lurk beneath the beautiful scenery and pleasant greetings from strangers are the same ones found everywhere: poverty, youth unemployment, substance abuse, domestic violence. Social problems are also treated differently here; whenever possible, problems are dealt with within the family, or an extended circle of friends. Read more