29 January 2016

Tanzania: Encouraging News As HIV Cases Decline in Kagera

Bukoba — Kagera Region has succeeded to contain the spread of HIV/AIDS scourge from 9.2 per cent in 2010 to 4 per cent last year. A report from the Kagera Regional Commissioner's Office indicates that HIV spread dropped to 8.3 per cent in 2011, 6.0 per cent in 2012, 7.8 per cent in 2013 and 6.1 in 2014.

The number of patients using ARVs also increased from 25,992 in 2013 to 40,235 by last year while the number of patients receiving home-based care increased from 4,015 in 2013 to 22,250 by last year.

Between January to October last year, total of 332,140 people tested their HIV status out of which 13,285 were positive, implying four per cent.

The first HIV/AIDS patient was diagnosed in Kagera Region in 1983. Since then, the killer disease has been spreading at an alarming rate claiming thousands of lives as big numbers of children have been turned to orphanages. Kagera Regional Medical Officer (RMO), Dr Thomas Rutachunzibwa, said reduction of HIV is due to concerted efforts by all stakeholders.

Including more use of condoms and male circumcision. Between September 2014 to October last year the region targeted to circumcise 22,472 males while those who turned up were 37,885 males. Despite the achievement, he appealed to residents in the region to show up for voluntary testing, noting that during same period, the number of infants born by mothers infected with HIV/AIDS dropped from 7 per cent to 4.6 per cent.

HIV prevalence among pregnant women dropped from 7.0 in 2013, 5.7 in 2014 to 4.6 per cent last year. The number of pregnant women who died due to pregnancy- related complications at the Bukoba Referral Hospital dropped from 15 deaths recorded in 2014 to nine deaths by September last year.

The co-ordinator for maternal health of Bukoba Municipality, Ms Florida Kente, noted that the success was largely due to continued education given to pregnant women who attend clinics regularly.

According to Ms Kente, the number of pregnant women who report for pre-natal care and those who deliver at health facilities in all seven Districts of Bukoba, Muleba, Biharamulo, Ngara, Karagwe, Kyerwa and Misenyi was encouraging. She attributed the success to improved health delivery services and construction of more dispensaries and health centres.

"More pregnant women were delivering at dispensaries and health centres. This is a positive mood because more lives of women and children were being saved," she said. The number of dispensaries increased from 206 in 2005 to 239 by 2010, health centres increased from 21 (2005) to 28 (2010) while the number of hospitals also increased from 13 in 2005 to 15 by 2010.

"The government is keen to ensure that more lives were saved through improved health delivery and construction of health facilities including dispensaries in rural areas where most Tanzanians lived," she said. Better health of a population is central to the development of a nation since a healthy population lives longer and is more productive and contributing more to a nation's economy.

Effective public health system from the grassroot levels are important in providing care for the sick and putting in place measures that promote preventive services of diseases.

Speaking during an interview with United Nations Radio, former President, Jakaya Kikwete was quoted saying the nations' objective is to ensure Tanzanian do not walk more than five kilometres seeking health care services. "So this means building more dispensaries in villages, health centres in wards and district hospitals.

Where these facilities are available, we improve the services, so that people are not forced to go to other areas looking for health services," he explained. He added that there are about 13,000 villages and nearly 3,000 wards that will need dispensaries and health centre facilities, noting that the sustainable programme to build health facilities in localities which ends in 2017 will have yielded good results that the country will continue building on.

Tanzania has been hailed for registering major achievements in attaining Millennium Development Goals (MDG's), number four for reducing under- five mortality from 161 per 1,000 live births in 1990 to 54 per 1,000 live births now.

The UN Children's Fund (UNICEF), Representative, Dr Jama Gulaid, said in Dar es Salaam that the improvement of health care has facilitated the attainment of the MDG number four in the country.

He was speaking during a National Multi-stakeholders Consultation meeting on the Role of Human Rights and Good Governance organized by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and the United Nations Country Team in the country.

Dr Gulaid said the consultation was aimed at bringing together the health and human rights communities to discuss how human rights mechanisms could assist in getting better health results for children, including prevention of neonatal and under-five mortality. "The consultation will focus on the right of the child to health and human rights based approach as it relates to underfive health," he said.

However, Dr Gulaid, pointed out that more efforts should be undertaken by the government to engage the people in order to address challenges facing children largely under aged pregnancies. World Health Organization (WHO), Representative, Dr Rufaro Chatora said there was still inequality in accessing health services between urban and rural areas because of limited resources.

"In Kilimanjaro and Arusha, the ratio stands at 13 health workers per 10,000 people while in Manyara and elsewhere the ratio stands at 1 health worker per 10,000 people," he observed.

Acting Social Welfare Commissioner in the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare, Mr Rabikira Mushi, said the government has included health sector in the Big Results Now (BRN), in 2015/2016 fiscal year to address challenges facing the sector.

"When the Big Results Now (BRN), was introduced the health sector was left out in the initiatives but the government has added it in this fiscal year. This is the sign that the government is committed to work on challenges facing the sector," he noted.

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