|© UNICEF Tanzania/2009/Bonn|
|During his visit to Tanzania, UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Danny Glover talks with a mother who has brought a child to a clinic and is waiting to be attended by a nurse.|
By Jacqueline Namfua and Kun Li
DAR ES SALAAM, Tanzania, 8 July 2009 – UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador and noted actor Danny Glover came to Tanzania to support this year’s Zanzibar International Film Festival, and he also used the opportunity to highlight issues related to HIV – particularly prevention of mother-to-child transmission, or PMTCT, as well as stigma and discrimination against children and their families affected by the virus.
“My brother lives with HIV/AIDS. He has been living with HIV for the past 20 years,” Mr. Glover told young people he met during the trip. “The work and the responsibility we have are not simply to our immediate families, but also to the community that we are living in. So to be able to use my visibility in the world as an actor is not something that I take for granted.”
Men’s involvement limited
At an antenatal clinic in Dar es Salaam, Mr. Glover sat down with Rose, who is pregnant and living with HIV, and who was at the clinic with her husband Hassan.
The clinic offers HIV testing, counselling and treatment to ensure that mothers give birth to healthy babies free of HIV. To encourage men’s participation in that process, many clinics like this one give couples priority, attending to them first. But the number of men accompanying their partners is still very low.
Rose was the only woman at the clinic with her partner during Mr. Glover’s visit.
“This low level of male involvement in PMTCT intervention is one of the barriers in increasing the PMTCT service delivery in Tanzania,” said UNICEF Tanzania HIV Specialist Myo-Zin Nyunt. “The role of men is the key contributing factor to community acceptance to PMTCT, as well as to support the pregnant women who are in the PMTCT programmes.”
Rose said her husband has been very supportive. “I was happy because he didn’t hesitate and accepted immediately to also get tested when I asked him. So we are now waiting for his results,” she told Mr. Glover.
HIV and stigma
Later, Mr. Glover met with adolescent members of the Zanzibar Association of People Living with HIV and AIDS.
|© UNICEF Tanzania/2009/Bonn|
|Goodwill Ambassador Danny Glover talking to an orphan who lost both his parents to AIDS and who is HIV positive. The child is at the Mbagala Rangi Tatu Dispensary in Dar es Salaam for counselling.|
Six of these young people, who are living with HIV or with HIV-positive family members, participated in a photo project about the rejection and isolation they had endured. Through powerful images and captions, the young people hope to educate the public and contribute to the reduction of HIV stigma and discrimination towards children.
Mr. Glover called HIV stigma “one of the most damaging” factors at work in the country. “This is the reason why we don’t have men and women stepping forward, and saying ‘I am going to take responsibility and get tested. I am going to find out if I am positive or negative,’” he asserted.
The HIV epidemic in the Zanzibar archipelago is more concentrated than on mainland Tanzania, and HIV prevalence is much higher there. During his meetings with the President and First Lady of Zanzibar, Mr. Glover highlighted the need to pay more attention to children and families affected by HIV.
Youth support centre
Drawing upon his personal experiences, Mr. Glover engaged in a candid dialogue with young people at the Zanzibar Youth Education Development and Environment Support Association, which offers a range of services – including HIV testing, counselling, vocational training and a 24-hour toll-free hotline to help address problems such as drug addition, HIV and unemployment.
“One day at a time,” Mr. Glover offered as advice to one young man who has been drug-free for three months. “At one time, I had all three of my brothers on drugs. A lot of people don’t get to where you are. We are all here celebrating that you have achieved this.”