Ever since independence in 1961, the national torch goes around the country once a year, visiting every district on its way, and creating unity in its wake. It looks a bit like an Olympic torch and when the torch comes to your district, it is a big day. This year Arusha’s big day was on 3 September. When the torch arrived at Oldonyosambu, the Ace Africa car, along with district officials and a host of others, was there to greet it. What followed was a very busy schedule of openings of mainly government projects, accompanied by traditional dancing from our own Ace drama group. It was then welcomed into the compound of the District Council. The theme for this year focused on industrialisation, economic development, inclusion of children and young adults, HIV and AIDS, malaria, and corruption.
The Ace team of ten counsellors and other staff had already set up their tents and were ready for a busy day, and night, providing testing for HIV, counselling, weighing and measuring, eye testing and information on protected sex. Some people prefer to come in the evening, when it may be less obvious that they are going for HIV testing. The stigma, although often self-imposed, can still be prohibitive to seeking the medical support needed.
Among the highlights of the day was the Juhudi 2 Group, a community support group who were awarded a grant of 4,000,000 Tsh (approx £10,000) for their work. The ladies had faced tough competition in achieving this recognition of their efforts, and were deservedly proud of their work with their community. This group had been trained by Ace Africa, so we were super proud, too. The drama group performed again at the end of the afternoon, telling the audience about things like gender equality, and responsible sexual activity, in their unique and inclusive way.
Testing and counselling went on all night for the Ace team, until it was time for the torch to move on to Meru District at 7.00 am. 303 people had been tested for HIV of which 6 had tested positive, four male and two female. 119 people had their BMI calculated, and 32 had their eyes tested. All that was left to do was pack up, tired and satisfied that they had managed to achieve so much on an important day for the district.