20 June 2018

Tanzania: Sigh of Relief for HIV Patients, Govt Set to Introduce New Range of ARVs

Photo: Luca Sola/ Medicins Sans Frontiers Doctors Without Borders
Selena Bishop from Ng'ombe village, undergoes her monthly consultation at Sorgin Health Centre, Nsanje. Serena is HIV positive and has come to collect her ARV refill. The clinician has recommended a malnutrition assessment (file photo).

Dodoma — TANZANIA intends to introduce new Antiretroviral drugs (ARVs), a first-line treatment for HIV-infected persons early next year, joining other countries battling to end the pandemic globally. This was revealed in Dodoma when Prime Minister Kassim Majaliwa launched a new HIV testing campaign "Furaha Yangu (My Pleasure)".

The Minister for Health, Community Development, Gender, Elderly and Children, Ms Ummy Mwalimu, described the eagerlyawaited new ARV drugs as 'more convenient' because would bring comfort" to people living with HIV.

Ms Mwalimu explained, "... this is a more improved and efficient drug compared to the existing ones which are under criticism from across the public health experts and users alike."As part of global efforts to bring relief to HIV-infected persons, the international organisations are rolling out the new drugs that expert says will be taken only once every week.

By the Minister's statement, it means Tanzania joins Kenya and South Africa that have agreed toadopt the new drugs. In Tanzania, about 1.4 million people are infected with HIV. Records from the office of the health minister indicates over a million people have been registered for ARV.

Justine Mwinuka, Chairman of the National Council of People with HIV in Tanzania (Nacopha), says access to ARVs and medicine for common opportunistic infections is turning a nightmare as days go by. The government announced that it is considering a pilot programme, however, allowing particular group of people to obtain the drugs that can run every three month.

"However, the initiative will not include children and pregnant women," according to Health Minister Ms Mwalimu. Plans are also getting underway to release a sufficient number of HIV viral load kits in 17 regions and 18 districts to help fast-track results that players say it takes too long to get.

Ms Mwalimu said the state has further increased the number of health facilities providing HIV care and treatment from 1,818 to 4,050 across the country. Prime Minister Kassim Majaliwa explaining on the campaign said the government target to attain a global 90,90,90 goal by 2020.

He admitted the number of men attending health facilities to determine their HIV status remains clogged-up with endless excuses. "This campaign will help understand the actual sum of people infected by the virus and start medication.

Expert says should we start early treatment it can reduce risk to infect others by nearly 70 per cent," he said. The 1.4 million people represents only 5 per cent of the country's 54.2 million people. The premier says efforts must be put in place now to protect the 95 per cent 'safe' population from contracting the virus but also safeguarding the existing 5 per cent from HIV related death and new infections, he said.

A report released by Tanzania Commission for AIDs (Tacaids) indicates 52 per cent of Tanzanians infected by HIV know their status of which 55.9 are female and 45.1 per cent male. It said 90.9 of all people diagnosed HIV infection had already received sustained ARVs and 87.7 per cent of those receiving ARV therapy had viral suppression.

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