During lunch breaks at the Geita Gold Mine in Tanzania, you can find Boaz educating his colleagues about sexual health, stressing the importance of condom use, monogamy, and routine HIV testing.
Boaz, who is a dump truck driver, also serves as a Health, Safety, and Environment Representative at the Mine. There is a dire need for awareness-raising among the mineworkers who are notoriously promiscuous, says Boaz. Many leave behind wives and girlfriends when they relocate to Geita to find work in the mines.
Before AMREF established a presence in Geita through our Aganza HIV/AIDS voluntary counseling and testing program, the majority of miners’ passed their non-working hours boozing and cruising. The result was high-risk sexual behavior with grim consequences.
“Men would go to the bars, get drunk, and pick up women. Most…had multiple partners and did not take any precautions like using condoms. As a result, HIV and STIs were rising rapidly among the mineworkers and in the community.”
In 2001, Boaz enrolled in a “peer educator“ training course at a local AMREF clinic; “we were taught about HIV, how it is spread, and how to avoid it.” Now he takes every available opportunity to ”talk to my colleagues about getting tested so that they know their status and know how to take care of themselves.” During lunch breaks he leads discussions about safe sex practices and when working night shifts he is granted access to the radio system to broadcast informational and cautionary messages.
Boaz is thrilled to report that AMREF and its dedicated team of community ambassadors have reversed the worrisome trend of climbing infection rates in Geita: “People are more careful now than they used to be…The miners use the clinic that AMREF has set up in Geita town where they can go for check-ups, counseling, and treatment. The clinic has reported a decrease in HIV prevalence and a fall in syphilis infections.”