Tanzania and Namibia: U.S. and host nation militaries bring leadership and teamwork to the fight (February 2006)

Each August, an estimated 2 million people attend the week-long annual Agriculture and Industry Fair known as "Nane Nane" in the southern Tanzanian town of Mbeya. This year, the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD), using Emergency Plan resources, worked with 11 local partners to staff counseling and testing and educational booths at the fair. About 300,000 people explored the booths, and 700 sought testing. The partner organizations gave educational speeches from a grandstand built specially by the Tanzania People's Defense Force, and presented dramas, dances, songs, and testimonies throughout the week. They also staffed all-day counseling and testing booths, contributing "runners" to take blood samples to the referral hospital lab. Due to the overwhelming number of clients, one night they were forced to conduct group counseling and take 50 clients to the Regional Hospital to finish the testing.

Out of the 700 tested, 9.4% were positive and given referrals to support groups and care and treatment centers. Significantly more males than females were tested, and 85% were between the ages of 19-28. The Tanzania Minister of Transportation and Communication, Professor Mark Mwandosya, hailed the partnership of the American and Tanzanian governments, and encouraged all attendees to work together to control HIV/AIDS. The remarkable range of partners was among the most impressive aspects of the event. The 11 local partners were faith- and community-based organizations providing HIV services in the Southern Highlands. The partners collaborated so well that they decided, with the encouragement of DoD and the Walter Reed HIV/AIDS Foundation, to form a network of local non-governmental organizations in Mbeya region. The network meets on the last day of each month to share information on best practices in the field, while planning, implementing and evaluating programs to address HIV/AIDS in the Southern Highlands of Tanzania.

In a number of countries DoD is collaborating with ministries of defense to develop leadership in HIV prevention for military personnel. In Namibia, the DoD-sponsored Military Action and Prevention Program in the Namibian Defense Force sponsored a base commanders' seminar, which forty-eight senior line officers attended. The seminar encouraged open discussion about the threat of HIV to military readiness and national security, and the responsibility of commanders to provide opportunities and encouragement for participation of soldiers in HIV prevention activities and testing. In Namibia and other Emergency Plan countries, an encouraging sign is the involvement of senior officers in the development of policies regarding HIV-positive troops and their future in military service - a previously taboo subject.

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