Govt targets youths, newborns in HIV fight

DAR ES SALAAM: THE government has vowed to direct more efforts in reducing new HIV infections among youths aged between 15 and 24 years and eliminate the viral transmission from mother to child.

Minister for Health, Ms Ummy Mwalimu said that in the present era with the availability of experts, resources, medicines and knowledge, it is unacceptable to have children born with HIV acquired from their mothers.

Ms Mwalimu made the commitment over the weekend during the launch of National Aids, Sexual Transmitted Diseases and Hepatitis Control Programme (NASHCoP) in Dar es Salaam, insisting that despite success recorded in the fight against the disease, more efforts are needed to protect the groups.

“We need to direct more efforts to reduce new HIV infections among youths who are at high risk of contracting the virus and eliminate new infections from mother to child… it is unacceptable for a child to be born with HIV in this era of technology, experts and knowledge,” she said.

She said the country has recorded tremendous success in the fight against HIV since the first patient was reported in the country 40 years ago.

The Minister said in 2005, infection rate was 7 per cent while in 2017 it dropped to 4.7 per cent, adding that the government will release latest statistics on the diseases on December 1 during the commemoration of the World Aids Day.

Currently, statistics show that the country recorded 50 per cent decrease in the number of deaths related to the disease over the last decade, according to the ministry’s data the number of deaths has dropped from 64,000 in 2010 to 32,000 in 2020 while new HIV/AIDS infections has dropped from an average of 110,000 in 2010 to 54,000.

The achievement is attributed to multiple public health interventions to scale up the antiretroviral (ARV) programme as statistics show there is a rising use of antiretroviral drugs and people are much more aware and go for HIV testing to know their status.

Pudensiana Mbwiliza, Chairman of the Forum for Young People Living with AIDS in Tanzania, said that stigma is one of the factors which cause most of the young people to fail to go for testing for sexually transmitted diseases and AIDS.

“Lack of understanding about the disease and fear due to what happened before to HIV patients and stigma in the society, others are isolating themselves and fail to show up at health facilities and fear to undergo testing,” said Mbwiliza.

She added that most youths have no knowledge about HIV and that is why they are scared to show up for testing and start treatment but if they are well informed, they will overcome the fear.

About NASHCoP, she said, “this is a great opportunity, as youths we will get treatment on HIV, Sexual Transmitted Diseases (STDs) and Hepatitis B in one place and it will make youths believe that their health information will be safe.”

Dr Eric Harris, a specialist in infectious diseases said there is need for directing more efforts in encouraging more youths to go for HIV testing and put on treatment those who will be diagnosed with the disease.

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