Tourists Influx Sparks HIV/AIDS In Zanzibar

TOMRIC News Agency (Dar es Salaam), 5 April 2000

Dar Es Salaam—Statistics on HIV/AIDS in Zanzibar indicate that increase of the deadly diseases is at alarming rate. The manager of AIDS control program in Zanzibar, Mr. Hamad Haji says that a survey conducted by his centre revealed that 56.2 percent of people living in Unguja urban district were HIV positive.

He says the West District followed with 15 percent having acquired the deadly disease. Zanzibar, the Islamic dominated Isles has about one million population and has registered 1,803 AIDS cases since the epidemic was reported in 1986.

Unguja Urban and West districts are mostly affected due to the increase of visitors from the Tanzania Mainland and neighboring nations seeking jobs and practicing commercial sex, says Mr. Haji.

He adds: The infection rate is in fact soaring especially in town areas due to failure by the people to strictly adhere to the safe sex practice.

In the recent period commercial sex has increased in Zanzibar with ladies at 12 to 30 age mostly being involved in this business. According to the recent report the charges when doing sex with a condom is about US$6 and with condom a man has to part US$19, a services which ends for just few minutes.

Commercial sex is so rampant in various new tourist hotels where young ladies go to hunt for their temporary partners.

Zanzibaris say that most of these ladies were not citizens of Isles. However, other dispute the idea, saying that economic hardships and increased of tourists arrivals in Zanzibar have jointly stimulated commercial sex among the Islamic women. Salim Mohamed Said a Member of Parliament (MP) for Konde constituency in Zanzibar has suggested that people arrested for engaging in commercial sex should be taken to court on the grounds that their business was outlawed.

Tourism is an economic base for Zanzibar, after experienced a significant decline in production and exports of traditional crops in the recent years. Due to slowness in employment creation the youth Zanzibaris have opted to join crimes or prostitution. Isles crime is on the rise due to increasing unemployment, the Minister of State in the Chief Minister's Office, Mr. Iddi Pandu says. He says the latest crime statistics indicates a worrying rise in violent crime and something must be done to check the situation. Due to economic difficulties, a total of 14, 894 criminal offenses had been recorded between January 1999 and last February. He feels that the idea of an establishment of the Isles free port and introduction of free economic zones in Unguja and Pemba as some of the measures to employ the youth and check the crime rate.

Under the East African Community arrangement, Zanzibar is the most marginalized economically. Various research reveal that economically Zanzibar has nothing to offer to her EAC partners.

As far as EAC is concerned, the manufacturing activities in Zanzibar only play a minor role. It has a share of less than 3 percent of the total manufacturing output of the Union (Zanzibar and Tanzania, says a research on economic analysis in EAC.

According to the assessment of the ministry of industries, Zanzibar resources are limited if compared with the other member states. The ability of Zanzibar of having larger industries therefore is very small, the only option is tourism and traditional exports. The situation has attracted jobless women to engage with commercial sex for their survival.

The residents of have already proposed that islanders should undergo voluntary HIV testing to check the increasing infection rate.

However, Tanzania's HIV/AIDS infection rate is said to be around 10 percent of the estimated 30 million population and most of victims are those in the 16 to 40 years age group.