Current Impact of HIV/AIDS in Tanzania:
A threat to capacity building within the Evangelical Lutheran Church
Dr. Peter Iveroth
former ELCT Health Program Director
HIV/AIDS has taken a catastrophic toll in society, decimating its
population, tearing apart the very social fabric of our society and
threatening our economy.
It decimates the productive age group: teachers, administrators, public
leaders, farmers and church employees among many others. It has caused
deterioration in the quality of life and life expectancy. It threatens
to reverse the hard-won social and economic gains.
Ultimately, all these effects put the future of the country at stake.
For example, many orphans are left behind and the affected people
also leave big gaps in their areas of work. In short, the effects
resulting from this epidemic at either individual or communal level
cannot be measured.
Since the first three cases of HIV/AIDS were reported in Kagera Region,
the Ministry of Health estimates that 1.3 million people are infected
150,000 people die of AIDS every year and the number of orphans in
the country has increased to about 700,000. This indicates that about
8% of the entire adult population is infected with HIV and may die
within the next five years.
The impact of the epidemic is severe and has led ELCT to declare HIV/AIDS
as a mission issue in capacity building. ELCT now realizes that with
no cure in place, education on preventive methods must be a top priority.
There is also a need of implementing a social vaccine that involves
social inclusion and solidarity among Lutheran Mission Cooperation
(LMC) members and other stakeholders. LMC is a joint instrument of
cooperation of the ELCT and her partners.
For these reasons, the ELCT has renewed its efforts in the war against
HIV/AIDS. In order to achieve this, more resources are needed to increase
education opportunities for the staff involved toward a stronger HIV/AIDS
Primarily, the church should make its position quite clear about HIV/AIDS
where all-church leaders, from bishops to evangelists, will speak
openly about it.
Ethical discussions on how to avoid the spreading of infection in
society should be promoted.
Information about HIV/AIDS must be integrated into theological and
Christian education for children, youth and adults.
Any negative aspects relating to HIV/AIDS such as fear, stigma, ignorance
and denial should be addressed at length.
The ELCT should then take care for those already infected as well
as those affected by it, e.g. orphans and widows.
Good care for the patients and orphans is an important issue for consideration.
The ELCT must also increase its training in counseling amongst medical
personnel, pastors and evangelists. Women should also be shown how
to reduce their vulnerability to HIV/AIDS.
society as a whole should consider transformation of gender roles
and social structures.
In essence, the ELCT should strengthen its health system that protects
groups at risk by formulating and implementing social and labour policies
and programs that reduce the spread of HIV/AIDS.
It should also stress the importance of documenting and disseminating
information and statistical data in order to increase the ability
of social partners to address the pandemic in an all-round manner
economically, socially and politically.
in order for the ELCT to mount an effective campaign against the HIV/AIDS
crisis and address its multi-faceted implications, the northern partners
have a role to play. The LMC must expand its capacity to deal with
HIV/AIDS problems, especially providing resources and experts experts
from international bodies.
should also be established among the bilateral and multilateral agencies.
Our northern partners should also participate in lobbying activities
promoting low cost anti-virus drugs to be available in this part of