AIDS still a big threat, says VP

The government has announced plans to put in place a special focus in regions with higher HIV/AIDs prevalence rates, saying that the killer disease remains a threat in the country.

The Vice-President, Dr Mohamed Gharib Bilal

Vice-President Dr Mohamed Gharib Bilal who was chief guest at the special event to mark the World AIDS Day in Dar es Salaam, called on all Tanzanians to play a devoted role in making the fight a success.

Dr Bilal said that although the country’s prevalence rate has gone down to 5.1 per cent, there are still some regions with over 10 per cent.

“According to 2011/12 survey, HIV/AIDs prevalence rate is at 5.1 for Tanzanian men and women aged between 15 and 49 years, which is a reduction by 0.6 from 5.7 per cent in 2007/2008.

Infection is still high for women at 6.2 per cent while men’s rates revolve around 3.8 per cent,” he observed. He noted that as per the said statistics, there are about 1.5 million Tanzanians living with HIV/AIDs, calling on all those who have started taking life-prolonging drugs to abide by medical prescription.

Dr Bilal further noted that the same statistics show that some regions are still faced with higher infection rate percentages, including Njombe (14.8), Iringa (9.1), Mbeya (9.0), Rukwa (6.2), Katavi (5.9), Coast (5.9), Dar es Salaam (6.9), Ruvuma (7.0) and Shinyanga (7.4).

Manyara and Tanga have the lowest rates at 1.5 and 2.4 respectively. “We will continue to put much emphasis on the regions with higher infection rates while sustaining efforts in the regions with low infections,” he said.

He added that the government, through Tanzania Commission for AIDS (TACAIDS), has analysed factors behind higher infections at the regions in question and various measures have been taken.

“Various efforts are being taken, including male circumcision, reducing infections from mother to child and treating sexually transmitted diseases (STDs),” he said.

He also handed over one CD4 machine to Mbeya Region, which marked the beginning of the distribution of 37 machines worth over 1bn/-, being aid from the American government.

“These machines will be used in 21 health centres, with clinics in the northern highland regions. We thank the American government for this aid extended to us through Walter Reed Army,” he said.

Dr Bilal called on TACAIDS and other agencies in the government to take stern measures against suppliers of fake ARVs as the practice puts the life of infected individuals in the risk of dying prematurely. He added that special focus was also on special groups including those abusing drugs and sexual workers.

Earlier, the Deputy Minister for Health and Social Welfare, Dr Seif Rashid, noted that the HIV/AIDs fight was moving in the right track with most of its targets likely to be achieved. “We are determined to end deaths caused by HIV/ AIDs and prevent new infections.

We have put much emphasis on preventing mother to child infection,” he reported. Dr Rashid noted that 16 regions in the country were well equipped with equipment to help fight transmission of viruses from mother to child, adding that the major setback was on 50 per cent of women who still give birth at home.

By ABDULWAKIL SAIBOKO, Tanzania Daily News

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