Over 3,000 newborns in Kilimanjaro Region have been protected from HIV/Aids infection from their victim mothers in four years time.
The ‘life saving’ feat has been possible through the partnership between U.S Elizabeth Glaser Pediatrics AIDS Foundation (EGPAF) and Kilimanjaro Christian Medical Centre (KCMC).
Briefing the visiting first Lady, Salma Kikwete on Thursday, the KCMC Director for hospital services, Dr Mark Swai said the alliance with EGPAF has saved lives of 3,163 infants and would bring hope to many in future.
“Only 487 babies equivalent to 13.3 per cent of the total 3,650 infants who were born by HIV/Aids victim mothers here have been infected,” Dr Swai told the first lady.
That means the teamwork has successfully managed to protect 3,163 newly born infants from HIV/Aids infection from their victim mothers. The number is equivalent to 86.7 per cent of all the newborns.
He revealed that KCMC had received a total of USD 1,696,384 from EGPAF in a bid to provide care and treatment of children and their families living with HIV/Aids.
EGPAF Associate Technical Director, Dr Aisa Muya said her organization had enabled KCMC to establish a Child Centred Family Care Clinic (CCFCC), where care and treatment of children and their families living with HIV/Aids is now provided for under one roof.
Dr. Muya further said EGPAF also purchased CD4 Cell Count Test machine and Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) that enables researchers to produce millions of copies of a specific DNA sequence in approximately two hours.
“This DNA-PCR is used to identify HIV from four up to 18 months old infants” she noted, adding that EGPAF also enabled KCMC to import and distribute ARVs for hundreds of patients.
Speaking after visiting the CCFCC, the first lady, Salma Kikwete praised EGPAF for their struggle in protecting children from being infected with HIV/Aids from their victim mothers.
“I would like to thank EGPAF for the significant job which they are doing to ensure hospitals and health centres provide sustainable health cares for HIV/Aids sufferers,” she said.
Tanzania is home to 1.4 million people living with HIV/Aids, 140,000 of whom are children.
Meanwhile, Tanzania is said to be one of the countries making progress in reducing maternal mortality but political commitment and robust national plans remained important in the campaign to fight the scourge.
The World Health Organization (WHO) Director General Margaret Chan said robust national plans with accountability indicators and a consolidated investment in cost-effective multi-pronged interventions that target several goals at once were characteristics that will determine success.
Chan was addressing key partners on the eve of a formal meeting that was convened by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon to further develop a set of concrete actions to advance the United Nations multi-pronged campaign to fight the scourge.
However Chan said the progress was fragile and not enough, adding that the UN wanted to see further progress in other countries.
“So basically we are seeing progress,” she added. “But it is also correct to say that the progress is not enough, the progress is fragile. Some countries are making progress, primarily India, China, Rwanda, Tanzania, Ethiopia – the list is longer than what I have just said – but the… UN has 192 countries, so we would like to see further progress in other countries,” said Chan.
Irenei Kiria, Executive Director of Sikika, a non-governmental organization which works to ensure government used public resources for health effectively said maternal mortality has remained stagnant at 578 per 100,000 live births in the past 15 years.
“We should have reduced 144 per 100,000 live births by now if we want to meet the goal 5 of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) which seeks to reduce maternal mortality by three-quarters between 1990 and 2015,” said Kiria.
He further said four years remained before the deadline for the goals, adding that it was difficult for the country to meet the goal due to various challenges it faced in the health sector.
Tanzania has a gap of 32 percent in human resources in the health sector and there was lack of supplies at almost all health facilities and the country at district levels.
Those present included President Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete of Tanzania, Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg of Norway, Indonesian Vice President Boediono, United States Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius and Canadian Minister of International Co-operation, Beverley Oda.
For his part, President Kikwete said more funding was required to increase global efforts towards further reduction of deaths to women and children.
He further said the government has raised its health sector budget to 11.0 per cent of the national budget and that health ranked third in budgetary allocation.
It has been 10 years since the launch of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), whose ambitious targets were to slash a host of social ills by 2015, including reducing the maternal mortality ratio by three quarters.