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Tanzania: HIV Industry Still Failing to Collect Data on Non-Sexual Transmission

One of the many damaging consequences of assuming that HIV is almost always transmitted through usafe sex is that those working with HIV tend not to notice non-sexual transmission, such as through unsafe healthcare, traditional and cosmetic practices. This blog and site is littered with examples of these modes of transmission, and of the HIV industry studiously ignoring every instance of transmission that they can’t explain away as being somehow related to sexual transmission.

High rates of transmission among ‘older’ people, which refers to people who are more than 49 years old (my current age), always comes as a surprise to those working for the industry. The Victorian prudishness that seems to affect people working with HIV means that they believe everyone gives up sex at some arbitrary time in their lives. Bizarre!

But older people, and that means people over 50 in developing countries, where life expectancy is much lower than in Western countries, don’t only continue having sex. They may also require health services more frequently than younger people. While that may not surprise those in the HIV industry, they have had a lot of trouble with the notion that understaffed, underfunded, underequipped health facilities may not be able to provide the safest health services in the world.

Research carried out in Tanzania finds that HIV prevalence among people from 50-98 years was 7.8%, compared to the national figure of 5.1% for people aged 15-49 years. HIV prevalence was higher in urban than rural areas, in common with figures for Tanzania as a whole [note that this is the opposite to what is stated in the abstract but I’m assuming the following text and data are correct]. While prevalence was a very high 12.9% among people 50-59 years old, it dropped to 5.7% among the 60-69 years age group and 3.7% among the 70+ age group.

The two areas for which data was collected, Mufindi and Babati, are in one of the highest (Iringa) and one of the lowest prevalence regions (Manyara), respectively, in mainland Tanzania. Prevalence among 50-98 year olds was 3.7% in Babati and 11.3% in Mufindi. The figure for Mufindi is not so shocking compared to Iringa’s 9.1% prevalence; in contrast, the figure for Babati is more than double the figure for Manyara region, which stands at 1.5%.

But it’s a pity the breakdown for male and female figures for each area is not available. The ratio of female to male prevalence in Iringa is 63%, similar to the national figure of 61%. But the same ratio in Manyara is 11%; there are about 9 HIV positive women for every HIV positive man. Is this shocking ratio maintained among people between 50 and 98 years old?

As is usual with these studies, no data was collected about non-sexual transmission, whether through unsafe healthcare, traditional or cosmetic practices. While the authors conclude that interventions should now target ‘older’ people, they fail to consider non-sexual HIV transmission, which means that some of the most important risk factors will continue to be ignored, and HIV will continue to be transmitted, independent of anything the HIV industry spends its millions on.

One response to “Tanzania: HIV Industry Still Failing to Collect Data on Non-Sexual Transmission

  1. Pingback: South Africa: With This Kind of Research, Who Needs Ignorance? | Don't Get Stuck With HIV

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