HIV testing: Govt tabling bill to improve Law of the Child

12Nov 2019
Henry Mwangonde
Dar es Salaam
The Guardian
HIV testing: Govt tabling bill to improve Law of the Child

THE government is today expected to table a bill to amend the Law of the Child 2009 to allow voluntary HIV/AIDS testing for children aged 15 and above following rapid increase in infections among this section of the population.

The Minister for Health, Community Development, Gender, Elderly and Children Ummy Mwalimu said in Dar es Salaam yesterday that the amended law will also facilitate the selling of HIV testing kits in market outlets such as groceries and pharmacies to encourage testing among people generally.

She said currently the law of the child does not allow children to go for testing without permission from a parent, saying this means that their status remains unknown, hindering timely start of using antiretroviral (ARV) drugs.

“New infections on youth aged 15 to 19 are very high, about 65,000 yearly and out them 80-percet are girls and only 20-percent are boys. Therefore we need to continue sensitizing the youths because they are the most affected group,” the minister said when speaking at an HIV/Aids seminar for artists which was organized by the Benjamin Mkapa Foundation (BMF).

The minister said about 80 percent Tanzanians understand HIV/Aids, noting that the problem now is how to translate the information that they have into preventive practices.

She said Tanzania has 1.4 million people affected by HIV and the government wants 90-percent of the country’s population to know their status, whereas currently it is only 62 percent who know their status.

“Many people do not like testing because of the stigma that is accompanied with it, but we will encourage that those who will be testing should do more testing in health centres,” she said.

“We are implementing a 90, 90, 90 campaign on HIV which is aimed at ensuring that by the year 2020  90-percent of men know their status while 90-percent of those found positive have access to retroviral drugs and 90-percent of the remaining ones are protected by the same year,” she specified.

In her remarks, the Chief Executive Officer for the Benjamin Mkapa Foundation, Dr Ellen Senkoro said the foundation has been working on encouraging voluntary testing for HIV.

“We have decided to use artists to sensitize voluntary testing because they have the ability to reach out to large numbers of people and they have followers who admire them in whatever they are doing,” she stated.

In 2018, 1.6 million people were living with HIV in Tanzania, which is equivalent to an estimated HIV prevalence of 4.6percent and 72,000 people were infected with HIV, while 24,000 people died from an AIDS-related illness, the minister noted.

Despite the numbers, Tanzania has done well to control the HIV pandemic over the last decade. Scaling-up access to antiretroviral treatment has helped the country to minimise the impact of the epidemic.

As a result, between 2010 and 2015, the number of new infections declined by more than 20percent and the number of people dying from an AIDS-related illness halved.

According to the latest Global HIV Diagnosis & Treatment Market Research Report 2019, HIV prevalence in Africa, specifically in the Southern Africa region is very high compared to the North African region. Approximately 1 out of 4 is suffering from HIV in Southern Africa.

The report said that Southern and Eastern region of Africa has one of the highest prevalence rates of HIV. About 19 million people have HIV, while HIV prevalence is low in North Africa but the number of cases of HIV is increasing rapidly. “There is no cure for HIV but drugs manufacturing companies are investing huge money in R&D to develop effective drugs for HIV,” the report said.

It is estimated that over 3000 patients died in sub Saharan Africa on a daily basis due to HIV in 2015. Ten countries in Africa carry 80 per cent of the total HIV burden, namely South Africa, Kenya, Malawi, Ethiopia, Mozambique, Tanzania, Nigeria, Uganda, Zimbabwe and Zambia.

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