The Tanzania Standard News – Daily News reported on Monday that traditional cultural practices among the Fipa people are responsible for a rapid increase in the rate of HIV/AIDS. “The fast spread of the pandemic has been attributed to strong cultural beliefs including sorcery and outdated traditional practices such as the right for a brother or relative of a deceased person to inherit the widow,” the paper argued.

The story pointed out that infection rates for HIV/AIDS have skyrocketed in several wards of the town of Sumbawanga, an important population center for the Rukwa Region of Tanzania and the historic center of one of the kingdoms of Ufipa. Since the first case of AIDS was reported at the Sumbawanga Regional Hospital in 1986, 9146 cases of HIV/AIDS have been diagnosed.

The HIV/AIDS reports from the town have risen from133 in 2001 to 533 during the past year, according to the paper. Beginning in January 2005, municipal officials started dispensing anti-retroviral drugs to the AIDS patients.

The rapid growth of HIV/AIDS is not unique in Africa, but placing blame for the problem on the cultural beliefs of the Fipa people highlights the negative attitudes in Tanzania toward them which Kathleen R. Smythe discussed in her recent book (see review this week).