By Keregero Keregero
The emergency of HIV/AIDS in our society has caused and continues to
cause great havoc including the terrible loss of people`s right to life.
As a matter of fact, the pandemic has interfered with an individual`s
right to life in several ways:The bitter sufferings arising from the
pandemic may lead to euthanasia. Euthanasia stands for physician
Although in the past it has been emphasised that human life must be
allowed to continue until a natural end, HIV/AIDS has, on one hand posed
challenges including a deliberate call to the effect that euthanasia can
be allowed to enable critically ill AIDS patients to die amicably with
less pain and dignity, according to Godffrey Ijumba\'s Training Manual
for Mass Media Practitioners on HIV/AIDS.
On the other hand, the protracted poignant pangs and sufferings the
pandemic imposes on People Living with HIV/AIDS (PLHAs), has led to many
attempted suicide and suicidal incidents, most of which are unreported.
In another perspective, stigma has caused and will still cause a
considerable number of people to take away their lives but only to give
different scapegoats for their untimely death, cushioned in seemengily
unclear phrases such as ``he or she has died after suffering brief
spells`` or that ``they suddenly died``, when as a matter of fact, the
gentleman or the lady simply committed suicide to relieve themselves of
the poignant pangs and sufferings brought about by the pandemic.
Euthanasia goes to the roots of the ethics of the medical profession, by
which ethics the medical personnel are obliged by the medical oath to
save life however painful.
Sometimes, it is done at the instigation of the patient or the health
care provider or family and close relatives.
However, were it to be allowed, euthanasia would disregard the fact that
every one has got a right to life; that due to unpredictability, a
critical AIDS patient of previous month may well be in robust health in
Moreover,allowing euthanasia may provide an excuse to get rid of the
unfortunate members of humanity like the mentally sick, lepers and
others, according to Human Rights Basic Texts, Dar es Salaam, May 2006,
Suffice it to note that the above observation notwithstanding,the
euthanasia call or debate emanates from the fact that some patients with
advanced manifestations of the pandemic in the absence of a cure, ask
for a right to die.
AIDS patients are also subjected to immense societal and personal
The suicidal attempts should therefore be understood in that light.
Many AIDS patients have tended to reason that since death will surely
come, it is better to hasten it to avoid pain for both relatives and the
infected as well as the attendant financial burden.
Although such reasoning is not necessarily right, its logic can be
In the circumstances, we hold the view that where HIV/AIDS infected
persons attempt suicide, more sympathy and understanding should be
demonstrated by responsible authorities just as in other cases where the
patients have terminal diseases, for instance, terminanal cancer, though
contracting HIV/AIDS is no defence against criminal prosecution.
This should be more entertained especially to those who are merely HIV
positive and may still live for years and benefit from a future care.
On the other hand, poverty has also been singled out as a cause and
often a product of human rights violation including the right to life.
It is this double edge that makes poverty probably the greatest human
rights challenge in the world. In Tanzania, the problem of abject
poverty speaks for itself.
Tanzania is the 166 out of 177 poorest countries of the world, according
to Robert V. Makaramba in his paper Descriptiond ``Human Rights Provisions in
the Constitution of the United Republic of Tanzania: Notes for for a
Briefing session for Journalists on Human Rights,`` held at UNICEF
Conference Room No.1 on the 6th December, 2006 .
In some cases people have taken their lives in the ugly face of abject
poverty. Early last year, a Dar es Salaam City hawker popularly known as
``machinga`` committed suicide after his make shift shop was razed down
to the ground by a municipal bulldozer.
The machinga left behind him a tragic message saying the decision of the
Ilala Municipality rendered him too poor to re-pay a bank loan he had
taken for business purposes, hence resorted to taking his own life as a
solution for the problem!
However, that apart there have unfortunately been reported incidents of
people committing suicide after they tested HIV positive.
The incidents are several and various and no doubt such a number is
likely to increase in the near future in the light of the fact that many
of such incidents may not be reported to responsible organs: A resident
of Maramba village in Mkinga District, Mariam Ninde(25), committed
suicide in her room by hanging herself using a piece of rope after she
tested HIV positive, according to Tanga Regional Police Commander Simon
Frank Sanga(22) a former Form Six student at St.Aggrey Secondary who was
living at Uyole locality, Mwawamji street in Mbeya City committed
suicide on December 19th,2007 in similar circumstances, according to
information relayed by Justin Sanga, an elder brother of the deceased.
Simon Mwakasindile alias Maneno (29) also hanged himself in his room at
Kibaoni in Singida after his girl friend informed him that she had
tested and found to be HIV positive, according to Celina Kaluba, Singida
Regional Police Commander.
In Dar es Salaam, Mohammed Omari (29) committed suicide in his room by
using a khanga after he tested HIV positive, according to Kinondoni
Regional Police Commander Assistant Inspector Jamali Rwambo.
These incidents are not taking place in Tanzania alone but in many other
places in Africa and the world at large.
For instance, in South Africa a person was killed upon declaring that he
was HIV positive; many others have committed suicide in different
In Malawi a woman killed her nine year old son with an axe after
discovering that they were both HIV positive.
The mother and the child both tested HIV positive in a hospital in the
Northern District of Karonga after suffering prolonged bouts of malaria.
At this juncture we appeal to fellow compatriots, especially those
already affected and those living with HIV/AIDS, not to commit suicide
for there is still life ahead for those infected and patients.
As a matter of fact researches have shown that some of the PLHAs have
lived with AIDS for 13 years as in the case of a servant of God, Pastor
Amin Sandewa of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Tanzania (ELCT);
others have lived with it for more than 15 years now, such as Canon
Gideon Byamugisha, another servant of God, who is a christian leader in
the service of the Anglican Church in Uganda. He knew of his sero status
And, still others have lived with it for more than 20 years, researches
have further shown.
Moreover, contracting HIV/AIDS does not necessarily mean one will die
the following day; it is certainly not a valid ``instant death
We therefore further appeal to all health service providers not to
divulge information of HIV patients to third parties unless it is
effected by the operation of the law or dictated by any other
exceptional lawful requirement.
This is because unlawfully divulging such information to third parties
causes PLHAs to face stigma that may lead to their being descriminated,
dejected, ostracised and even committing suicide, at the end of the day.
There is evidence that even health service providers living with
HIV/AIDS themselves have been facing stigma from even their fellow
members of staff in hospitals, a documented confession by those infected
with the pandemic has revealed.
The confession is documented in the ``lET US Break the Silence,`` A U$
145,OOO documentary in a form of film which was shot and produced in
The documnentary contains tales of bitter experiences of health
providers, including the ugly face of marauding stigma.