As Tanzania embarks on HIV three zero approach, Arusha Region is reported to be short of 101 health care centres that provide services on Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission (PMTCT) of HIV.
Arusha Regional Medical Officer, Dr Frida Mokiti revealed this over the weekend when speaking at a launch of Option B+ programme on PMTCT in northern zone. At national level, the programme was launched in December 2012 by President Jakaya Kikwete at the climax of AIDs Day in Lindi.
Option B+ approach offers all HIV positive pregnant women a lifelong antiretroviral therapy, regardless of their clinical stage or CD4 count, thus streamlining the PMTCT process.
Dr Mokiti said at the moment there are about 216 operating centres across the region which is equivalent to 68 percent.
“This number is still small. Our target is to reach at least 75 percent by 2015,” she said, adding that the government’s projection is to reduce mother to child HIV infections from 20 percent to less than 5 percent by next year.
“I am sure by the scheduled time frame we will achieve the target,” she reinstated, adding that apart from the successes recorded, there are number of challenges such as limited PMTCT centres as well as health facilities.
“In collaboration with the ministry of Health and Social Welfare and other partners like the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation (EGPAF), we are struggling to reach out by 75 percent,” Dr Mokiti said.
The official said the region is also in shortage of health facilities due to limited financial resources allocated by the central government. She noted that some of the pediatric formulations like NEVIRAPINE syrups and CONTRIMOX syrups are also in shortage.
“However, we also thank EGPAF and other partners for making PMTCT possible in the region,” she added.
EGPAF Regional Programme Manager for Kilimanjaro and Arusha regions, Riziki Ponsiano said since January 27 to date his organization in collaboration with regional authorities has managed to train 88 service providers, “the trained personnel have started to provide services in the Option B+ programme in our centres.”
“We are also working on improving health centers for people living with HIV across the region,” she added.
EGPAF has been working in Arusha on PMTCT programme since 2003 and more children were born free of HIV ever since.
“In Tanzania we also work in Kilimanjaro, Lindi, Tabora, Shinyanga, Coast region, Mwanza and Zanzibar,” said Ponsiano.
Arusha Regional Commissioner, Magesa Mulongo implored the need for women to go to clinic as soon as possible once they discover they are pregnant.
“This will make it easier for health service providers to give them necessary incentives that would enable them access ARVs and prevent children from contracting HIV,” the RC said, adding: “This service is offered free of charge in public health facilities.”
He said arrangement on accessing ARVs has changed as of now pregnant mothers start accessing life-prolonging drugs soon after testing HIV positive.