Tanzania's HIV prevalence has dropped to 5.7 percent from a high of seven percent in 2004, according to the recently released Tanzania HIV/AIDS and Malaria Indicator Survey 2007/08.
The study was carried out among people aged between 15 and 49 in all 26 regions on the Tanzanian mainland and the semi-autonomous archipelago of Zanzibar.
On the whole, the survey results are encouraging, but there are still problem areas. The higher prevalence among women (6.6 percent) than men (4.4 percent) is of particular concern.
"The recent survey shows that female youth under the age of 18 years engage in sexual relations at relatively higher rates than males, risking higher rates of HIV infections," Salma Kikwete, Tanzania's first lady, noted in a speech on International Women's Day.
Tanzanian law allows girls as young as 15 to marry, which women's rights activists have long opposed; the legal age at which boys may marry is 18.
According to the penal code, persons of "African or Asiatic descent" may marry or permit the marriage of girl less than 12 years of age in accordance with their custom or religion if the marriage is not intended to be consummated before she turns 12.
"We must discard these unhealthy cultural practices and give opportunity to girls, so that they remain in school until they are mature enough to make informed decisions," Kikwete said.
The government recently imported 100,000 female condoms to be distributed countrywide as part of its efforts to empower women.
"The condoms are still being circulated by Medical Stores Department and we continue to give education on how to use them, taking into account the need for women to [be in] control themselves, and make decisions on safe sex," said Rowland Swai of the Tanzania AIDS Control Programme.
The survey also showed that HIV infection is rising in certain parts of the country; in the southern highland region of Iringa, HIV prevalence is 15.7 percent, up from 14.7 percent in 2007. HIV prevalence was revealed to be highest among men and women in the country's richest households.
This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions
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