Category Archives: Reflections

Shipping Out!

The AIDSTanzania team is leaving the country! This year our in-country team consists of six students: Erin, Danny B., Carrie, Rhiannon, Melissa, and team leader Marigene. Except for trip veteran Marigene, this is everyone’s first AIDSTanzania trip, and I think I speak for all of us when I say: we are SO STOKED!

With our yellow fever vaccinations, visas, and full-to-the-brim carry-ons at the ready, we’re departing from DC on Monday evening and will be spending — if I accounted for the time difference correctly — 9.5 million hours in flight. We’ll be stopping over in Frankfurt and then in Addis Ababa before finally landing at Kilimanjaro airport. Once in Tanzania we’ll be traveling to Arusha where we’ll be staying and working in the community. There we will be distributing the educational booklets we created, hosting an HIV testing day, collaborating with students from the local university, and participating in a host of other programs and activities.

I know I for one can’t WAIT to see what this trip holds for us. Stay tuned to hear what happens!

– Rhiannon


Why Aren’t More Americans Getting Screened for HIV?

In the 30 years since the discovery of HIV/AIDS, much advancement has been made. New drugs ensure that people with HIV are living longer, more symptom-free lives. One area in which we are still lacking, however, is in testing. Says Dr. Patrick Sullivan, an associate professor of epidemiology at the Rollins School of Public Health at Emory University, “One of the problems we still have is a very basic one: We’ve had a test for HIV since 1985, and yet we still haven’t taken full advantage of that tool.”

Read the full article at

30 Years In, We Are Still Learning From AIDS

This article highlights the importance of looking back at the early days of AIDS in the US. In these days, there was a plethora of discrimination and ignorance surrounding AIDS.

Today, “one of the most daunting challenges is to stay vigilant until AIDS is at last conquered. Consider that it has been almost a quarter century since federal health officials confidently predicted that a vaccine would be available in the late 1980s — a promise that has yet to be fulfilled.”

Healtcare Reform and HIV/AIDS

Is AIDSTanzania going to go political and talk about the pros/cons of the healthcare reform storm that is sweeping the nation? No. But it is worth thinking about how the healthcare bill will affect those at risk for HIV and those already living with HIV/AIDS. For example, read the following quote from the article: “Forty-five percent of people with HIV/AIDS in the United States have incomes under $10,000 a year, and 50 percent lack regular medical coverage.” That is a staggering statistic.

With all of the talk about who really benefits from the bill, who doesn’t benefit, and what this will do to our disenfranchised citizens, it is worth thinking about those who are some of the most disenfranchised of all – those living with HIV/AIDS and who are already struggling to get access to affordable, non-discriminatory, and beneficial healthcare. Also, any type of freeze to domestic spending on health and human service programs will hurt both those who are HIV-positive and those who are at risk.

No matter what your political position, something to think about.

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Domestic Action to Fight AIDS Among Women Lacking

March is Women’s History Month. On March 10th, according to, America “celebrated” Women and Girls’ HIV Awareness Day. But apparently there wasn’t anything to celebrate, since our country has made relatively little progress in awareness or policy around the high HIV rate for women, particularly African-American women and girls. The article laments that our international AIDS relief plans address the gendered issues around HIV prevention and treatment, while our own domestic policy largely ignores the epidemic.

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UNICEF’s “Unite for Children, Unite Against AIDS” campaign has a good website to learn more about children at risk for and with HIV. It provides a link to the Children and AIDS: Fourth Stocktaking Report 2009 Summary, and lists out UNICEF’s 4 Ps. They are 1) preventing mother-to-child transmission of HIV, 2) providing pediatric treatment, 3) preventing infection among adolescents and young people, and 4) protecting and supporting children affected by HIV and AIDS.

Unite for Children, Unite against AIDS focuses on four areas that contribute towards the achievement of an AIDS- free generation. These Four Ps are based on global commitments made in the Millennium Development Goals and focus on the needs of children and their families.

Unite for Children, Unite against AIDS focuses on four areas that contribute towards the achievement of an AIDS- free generation. These Four Ps are based on global commitments made in the Millennium Development Goals and focus on the needs of children and their families.

Check it out if you’d like to learn more about what UNICEF is doing to fight HIV and protect children.

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The AIDS Message

3,000 posters from around the world, that all try to raise awareness of HIV/AIDS, have been digitized by staff at The Wellcome Library in central London.” Watch the interesting and inspiring video here.

World AIDS Day Poster

BBC News, World AIDS Day Poster

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Uganda to Revamp its HIV Prevention Message

“We shall use basic facts in the messages to communicate effectively because we have realized that the level of knowledge about basic facts on HIV information is quite limited,” said Saul Onyango, senior health educationist with the Uganda AIDS Commission (UAC).

The UAC, after feeling that Uganda’s messages were less successful than hoped, will re-define high-risk sex from “sex with irregular partner” to “anyone whose HIV status is unknown.” An at-risk population now includes anyone engaged in risky sex. Generic warnings about risky sex will now be favored over targeted messages, such as those about inter-generational sex.

“We have to change the destiny of this country, even if it means putting back the drums of the 1980s that used to frighten people,” said UAC director-general, David Kihumuro Apuuli. The center of a 1980s radio campaign in Uganda featured an ominous drumbeat and “AIDS kills.” Some in Uganda would like to see fear-driven campaigns return, believing them to be successful. The other side of the debate worries that scare tactics do not lead to behavior change but encourage fatalism and discrimination.

Those in Uganda’s leadership also voice a worry rarely heard – that funding for HIV prevention programs largely comes from donors and is unsustainable.

A lot to think about. We recommend reading the full article here to gain the most insight.

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AIDS has Economic Impacts in Tanzania

“But global crisis aside, Tanzania is in a job crisis of its own characterised by the devastating HIV/Aids pandemic and low competitiveness and productivity, experts say,” Damas Kanyabwoya writes for the full article here.

It is important for us to remember that HIV has human and social effects beyond the side effects of the disease itself. Jeffrey D. Sachs, author of The End of Poverty, writes that he was shocked during his first visit to Zambia, when many of his Zambian colleagues were incapacitated by AIDS. In his book, he relays how he had never imagined that an illness could be so economically devastating. Indeed, it seems unimaginable to those living in a country like the United States that a disease could have an impact big enough to cause a drain among the working population, even big enough to hurt the economy.

Tanzania faces a similar problem to the one Sachs recognizes in Zambia, and it is exacerbated by malaria, TB, and cholera. When a country is crippled by disease, there is a viscious cycle of disease and poverty – countries do not have the money to fight disease, and so their working populations and schoolchildren are distracted or killed by illness, and thus there isn’t the education or capital to generate money.

Adding economic impacts to the discussion of HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment will help educators, researchers, and leaders fight the disease most effectively.

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A reminder that fighting AIDS should not be the only fight…

A lot of the disease-fighting focus in Tanzania, and in Africa as a whole, is to HIV/AIDS. Many people see this as the overwhelming problem and forget that many people struggle against more basic, more preventable, more treatable diseases – such as cholera.

A cholera outbreak in northeastern Tanzania has resulted in 12 deaths and the closing of schools until November 1 (read more here).

Though AIDSTanzania is primarily focused on HIV/AIDS education and prevention, we have realized the need to broaden our vision. For example, we cannot teach someone about how to prevent contracting HIV when they are struggling with malaria or TB or cholera. Additionally, if someone has one of these diseases their immune system and body are already weakened, and research shows that they may contract HIV more easily while sick. We must start with a comprehensive (or holistic) approach to health and education.

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