Carrying the Olympic flame for PLHIV in Tanzania
18 April 2008
Dhamiri Mustapha, a young Tanzanian woman living with HIV, was one of the 80 dignitaries who carried the Olympic flame during the five-kilometre torch relay in Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania, on 13 April.
Dhamiri was thrilled to take part in such a high–profile event in her own country, and it provided a welcome opportunity for her to speak out on behalf of people living with HIV (PLHIV) in a public forum. “I’m happy to represent other Tanzanians living with HIV in this positive way”, she said. Dhamiri is a board member of the Tanzania National Council of People Living with HIV and AIDS (NACOPHA) and a member of the Network of Young People Living with HIV and AIDS (NYP+).
Her tiny frame and shy smile betray the twenty-three-year old’s extraordinary energy and courage. At the Olympic torch press conference held in advance of the relay, she spoke about her experience of living with HIV and urged young people to protect themselves. Dhamiri is not afraid to address the issue of condom use in the region. “Condom distribution is a major problem, given that there is hesitancy among some sectors of society to support their use in HIV prevention. More condoms are necessary for young people to reduce infections among this group,” she stated.
A student at Kibaha Teachers Training College, Dhamiri expects to graduate in 2009, when she hopes to find a place teaching primary school. Her studies are being sponsored by the WAMA Foundation, a non-profit organization founded by the First Lady of Tanzania, Mama Salma Kikwete. With assistance from the UN, the WAMA Foundation provides teachers with training on HIV. It also supports young positive Tanzanians, like Dhamiri, to become future educators.
The participation of Dhamiri in the Olympic torch relay was facilitated by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and UNAIDS and is the result of their partnership, which aims to emphasise the role of sport in HIV prevention and promote AIDS awareness activities with coaches, athletes and sports personalities at global and national levels.
In a joint message IOC President Jacques Rogge and Dr Peter Piot, Executive Director of UNAIDS, underlined how sport can break down barriers, fight discrimination and make a difference in the AIDS response. "One third of the approximately 33 million people living with HIV are young people under the age of 25, many of whom are involved in sports, either as spectators or as participants. Sport offers a perfect platform to make young people aware of the issue, to promote preventive messages, and to ensure that persons living with HIV are not discriminated against. Discrimination towards a country, or a person on grounds of race, religion, politics, gender, or otherwise, is incompatible with the principles of the Olympic Movement.”
As part of the collaboration, UNAIDS and the IOC have developed the publication ‘‘Together for HIV Prevention: A Toolkit for the Sports Community”, featuring information about HIV and includes messages from international sport stars, some of whom are HIV-positive. A Swahili version of the toolkit is being produced and is expected to be launched in Tanzania in June 2008.
The UNAIDS and IOC partnership is also sponsoring the production and distribution of HIV awareness cards and red ribbons which will be inserted in the welcome kits of the 11,000 athletes taking part in the XXVIII Olympic Games in Beijing in August.