Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, 15 September 2016 —  A high-level gathering of key social work stakeholders met today in Dar es Salaam to review the findings of a Government study on HIV/AIDS competencies in social work education as Tanzania works to achieve an AIDS Free Generation by 2030.

As reported by UNAIDS, Tanzania’s estimated HIV prevalence rate among adults between the ages of 15 and 49 of 4.7 percent. Challenged by severe shortages of trained healthcare workers, the country is currently revising and updating existing guidelines and processes to support task sharing — shifting basic HIV treatment and care duties that could previously only be carried out by doctors to nurses, social workers, and other trained mid-level personnel. This is especially critical in rural parts of the country hardest hit by the acute shortage of physicians.

“It is unquestionable that social work has a critical role in improving access, reach, and quality of HIV/AIDS [care] and related social welfare services for people living with HIV, and other at-risk populations,” explains Mr. Rabikira Mushi, Commissioner for Social Welfare at the Tanzanian Ministry of Health, Community Development, Gender, Elderly and Children (MOH), noting that social workers are critical members of HIV/AIDS care teams.

Today’s meeting brought together heads of social work schools, policymakers, and civil society representatives to discuss the critical role social workers are poised to play in efforts to improve the access to HIV/AIDS-related services across the country. Participants carefully reviewed the findings of the MOH study on HIV/AIDS competencies in social work curricula to establish a baseline prior to commencing efforts to standardize HIV/AIDS education and training across all social work programs and institutions nationwide.

Plans to strengthen HIV/AIDS training for social workers will include the integration of crucial competencies, such as pre- and post-test counselling, support for survivors of violence against children and gender-based violence, ART adherence monitoring, providing care and support for people living with HIV, and how to link effectively clients to comprehensive HIV-related services. While these competencies are critical for all social workers, they are especially relevant for those who will work in healthcare facilities and in communities with high HIV burden.

Participants also focused on developing a plan for updating curricula at all accredited social work programs in the country to better prepare a strong social welfare workforce to lead the psycho-social response to Tanzania’s HIV/AIDS epidemic.

“The reality is that Tanzania needs more qualified social workers to attain the ambitious UNAIDS 90-90-90 goals that will help us to achieve an AIDS Free Generation by 2030,” says AIHA Country Director for Tanzania Sally Chalamila.

The American International Health Alliance (AIHA) has been working to strengthen the social work profession in Tanzania since 2007 through a multi-faceted partnership between local institutions and their counterparts in the United States. Through this partnership, the Association of Schools of Social Work in Tanzania has been collaborating with the Midwest AIDS Training and Education Center at the University of Illinois in Chicago to strengthen the capacity of 12 Tanzanian schools of social work, largely through faculty and curriculum development that aligns social work education with national standards and global best practices. AIHA’s Social Work and OVC Support Project in Tanzania is supported by the US President’s Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Tanzania. It is managed through AIHA’s HIV/AIDS Twinning Center Program, which is funded by the US Department of Health and Human Services, Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA).