2 December 2012

Tanzania: Kikwete Targets Zero HIV Infections By 2015

PRESIDENT Jakaya has spelt out plans that target zero HIV/ AIDS new infection and related deaths by 2015, signifying a fresh government push towards greater access to treatment for all and a call for every individual to act responsibly.

Marking the World Aids Day held at national level in Lindi, the president said the government's fresh vigour was also highlighted by the signing of a $308m (486bn/-) agreement between Tanzania and the Global Fund, aiming at reducing Mother to Child Transmission from the current 6 per cent to 4 per cent and ultimately to zero per cent.

The programme would also scale up access of Anti Retroviral drugs to everyone who needs them and supply of testing equipment to all major health centres.

"Prevention of Mother-to-Child Transmission programme, through which children born to HIV positive parents can be free from the virus, has exceeded its target by an average of 112 per cent in seven indicators, for the past three years", said the president, adding: "Women should check their health status as soon as they conceive. We want to record zero infection from pregnant mothers by 2015," he said.

He seized the opportunity to remind the nation of the impact of the disease on families and labour force. He emphasized that it was everyone's responsibility to ensure that the current infection rate does not increase. He also said that HIV/AIDS was now taught in schools for all to get general knowledge on the disease.

The president lay emphasis on good parenting saying children should also understand their role in the fight against the disease. "Be open, tell them of the dangers of HIV/AIDS," he said. "If you spiritual leaders cannot tell the people to use preventive measures, we politicians will do so," he remarked.

He also said the government was establishing the Aids Trust Fund so that the HIV response would be funded locally. Currently it is 96 per cent supported by foreign donors. The Director of Global Fund Tanzania, Dr Christopher Ben, said the agreement signed with the government would benefit 77,000 pregnant women and 10,000 People Living with HIV.

Earlier, the Minister for Health and Social Welfare, Dr Hussein Mwinyi, said data show that the rate of infections had dropped, adding that the demand for male circumcision was growing among non-circumcising communities. The country is on track to surpass its target of circumcising 2.8 million men by 2015.

He said infections dropped to 7 per cent ten years ago and the aim is to hit 2 per cent. Through a representative, the UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon, gave his message saying that the Millennium Development Goal for HIV/AIDS is clear: to halt and begin to reverse the epidemic by 2015.

He said the UNAIDS World AIDS Day Report for 2012 reveals significant progress in preventing and treating HIV/AIDS in the past two years. "The number of people accessing life-saving treatment rose 60 per cent and new infections have fallen by half in 25 countries -- 13 of them in sub-Saharan Africa. AIDS-related deaths have dropped by a quarter since 2005," he said.

He said half the global reductions in new HIV infections in the last two years have been among new-born babies. "I urge member states to intensify their efforts to eliminate mother-to-child transmission, and to work to ensure all HIV-positive mothers can survive and thrive," he said. He urged for stronger efforts to eliminate the stigma and discrimination that increase risk for vulnerable populations.

"We must make information, testing and treatment available to all, so every man, woman and child can enjoy their fundamental right to the medical care and essential services that will end this devastating epidemic," he said. He also said zero new HIV infections, zero discrimination, and zero AIDS-related deaths by 2015 are achievable. President Kikwete arrived in Lindi at noon and made a brief tour of exhibitions.

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