In Tanzania, Local Champions Are Key to Preventing HIV in Adults

By Mary Goodluck Mndeme ,
Communications officer, IntraHealth International
April 11, 2019
They're the bridge between their neighbors and the information and services that could help end the country's epidemic.
Shaban Peter’s father died when he was very young, leaving him—last born in a family of six children—and his mother behind.
“I’m coming from a poor family,” says Shaban, who’s now 18 and lives in Ushetu District, Tanzania, in the same region where he grew up. “My mother couldn’t manage to send all of us to school. I can’t read or write, but that doesn’t stop me from advocating in my community. I thank God because I have a capacity to listen and understand easily, and from that I can share information with my friends and relatives.”
Shaban has a passion for preventing new HIV infections in his community, including by conducting door-to-door and one-on-one visits with his neighbors as he advocates for the benefits of voluntary medical male circumcision (VMMC), which can reduce men’s risk of acquiring HIV through heterosexual intercourse by around 60%.
Shaban was trained on VMMC advocacy by health workers in Ushetu Health Centre, through IntraHealth International’s ToharaPlus project. From there he started collecting VMMC information books, leaflets, and other promotional materials and distributing them to other young men and youth groups.
“I walk for about four hours from home to the health center to bring clients there or to collect leaflets for my friends and relatives,” he says.
Shaban has referred more than 161 men and boys to the health center for VMMC.

Since September 2017—after undergoing the procedure himself—Shaban has referred more than 161 men and boys (mostly men over the age of 20, a PEPFAR priority group) to come to Ushetu Health Centre for VMMC. Shaban is among a pool of VMMC beneficiaries who have become ambassadors of the service in their communities.
During October 2017 to January 2019, IntraHealth provided VMMC services to more than 815 men and boys at Ushetu Health Center alone, 29% of whom were over the age of 20.
Locals like Shaban are crucial to Tanzania’s efforts to end the country’s AIDS epidemic. That’s why IntraHealth works with local partners to raise awareness around VMMC not only through door-to-door visits, but also at roadshows, community events, sports bonanzas, and more. Community-based health worker Mariam Shambuli, for instance, visits women’s groups, ceremonies, and bars in Bunamala-Mbugani, Simiyu, to talk with men and women about the benefits of VMMC.