16 May 2018

Tanzania: Plan Launched to Dispense HIV Drugs in Centres

Minister for Health, Community Development, Gender, Elderly and Children, Ms Ummy Mwalimu

A NEW programme has been launched to improve the public access to HIV/AIDS and opportunistic diseases subsidised drugs in various Voluntary Counselling and Testing (VCT) Centres.

The plan was unveiled by the Minister for Health, Community Development, Gender, Elderly and Children, Ms Ummy Mwalimu, saying that the government wants to end the problem by allowing VCTs and selected Health Centres to release the drugs every three month.

The drugs which are currently unavailable in the institutions, pose a challenge to the patients who require the prerequisite medications, after becoming susceptible to opportunistic infections in their struggle to access the subsidised drugs in the government institutions.

"There is no need to command and disturb patients to pick the drugs everyday at the hospitals or centre. This plan must be reviewed," she pointed, while announcing that the new plan should start this July. "We have the records of the patients.

I don't see why they should not be given the required medicines on time to cover for at least three months," she said. At least 1.4 million people are HIV positive in Tanzania, with Lindi and Zanzibar recording the lowest infection rates with at less than one per cent each.

A study published by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) in 2017 shows that HIV prevalence among adults was high in Njombe (11.4 per cent), Iringa (11.3 per cent) and Mbeya Regions (9.3 per cent). The Minister said during the 2018/19 financial year, the state has allocated 5.3bn/- to procure drugs for HIV and AIDS patients including treating their opportunistic infections.

Ms Mwalimu said at the 30th anniversary of the National Aid Control Programme (NACP), the drugs for people living with HIV and AIDs will be the ministry's top priority. National Council of People Living with HIV and AIDS in Tanzania (NACOPHA) explained that its patients were struggling to obtain the drugs in some centres, though they are few.

"We face a lot of discriminations and we are required to get these drugs to sustain our health," said Nacopha Chairman, Mr Justine Mwinuka in a statement. Citing a centre in Njombe for instance, he said it receives 150 patients on daily basis, forcing it to meet some challenges to dispense the drugs to the individuals promptly.

Records show that there at least 2,800 VCTs across the country and in addition, there are 3,400 centres countrywide providing Prevention from Mother To-Child Transmission (PMTCT) but fail to offer Voluntary Counselling and Testing (CVT) services.

The Minister said by December this year, 50 per cent of PMTCT or 1,700 would be offering the VCTs. Meanwhile, the government is considering ranking all its 7000 Health Centres countywide to provide VCT service to HIV and AIDs patients in attempt to eliminate the disease.

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