Saturday, December 3, 2016

Getting to Zero

Hi everyone.  Once again I am a little late to post - sorry for that!  This entry refers to the recent World AIDS Day, marked every December 1st by patients, caregivers, friends, families, and stakeholders all around the world.  I found a nice article out of the Daily News about a call for voluntary testing to commemorate the day in Tanzania.  The title of this blog "Getting to Zero" refers to the goal of zero deaths and zero new infections.

Reminds me of my pre-Toa days when I worked for another NGO called Visions in Action and spent much more time on HIV-related initiatives, including a weekend of testing in Himo one year, about 45minutes outside of Moshi.  I really cannot believe I did that, given my total hypochondria, but looking back, I'm so glad I did.  We worked in conjunction with two other local NGOs in Moshi to: raise tents and put in dividers for privacy; provide pre- and post-test counseling; rapid test hundreds of villagers in a safe and sanitary way; and even hold a little music festival and food court to entertain people while they were waiting.  By providing a secure and intimate environment in which people could get tested as well as counseled by local doctors and nurses, we were able to allay their fears and encourage them to know their status.

So, I guess this World AIDS Day (Thursday, December 1, 2016) was a bit of a #throwbackthursday for me.  Here's hoping a lot of people will take action and get tested soon!

Tanzanians yesterday joined the rest of the world to commemorate the World AIDS Day, with people urged to undertake voluntary testing to avert further spreading of the deadly disease.

The Tanzania Association of Employers (ATE) asked all employers in the country to abide by the HIV/AIDS policy as well as providing education to employees.

"It should be well-known that people spend more time at work than anywhere, therefore if enough education is not provided, several issues that subject them to risk are likely to occur," said ATE's HIV/AIDS coordinator, Ms. Tumaini Kiyola.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has said it encourages self-testing to improve access to and uptake of HIV/AIDS diagnosis.

The WHO statement said that well-utilized HIV/AIDS self-testing can open the door for people to know their HIV status and find out how to get treatment and access prevention services.  "HIV/AIDS self-testing means people can use oral fluid or blood finger-pricks to discover their status in a private and convenient setting.  Results are ready within 20 minutes or less," WHO Director-General, Dr. Margaret Chan, was quoted by as saying.

After self-testing, people with positive results are advised to seek confirmatory tests at health clinics.  WHO recommends they receive information and links to counseling as well as rapid referral to prevention, treatment, and care services.

As the nation marks the World AIDS Day today, there are almost 2 million new HIV infections worldwide every year and 1 million people die from the disease annually.  WHO officials estimate about 40 percent of those with HIV (14 million people) are unaware that they are infected.

Tanzania has about 1.4 million people living with HIV/AIDS.  However, only 830,000 of these are on ARVs.  About 36 million people around the world are currently infected with HIV.

According to the Minister for Health, Community Development, Gender, Elderly, and Children, Ms. Ummy Mwalimu, Tanzania needs, USD 382 million (about TSH 830 billion) until December, 2017 to fund its ambitious plan of putting over 1.4 million people living with HIV on life-long ARVs regardless of their CD4 count.

Yesterday, ATE, as the private sector focal point on HIV response, in collaboration with the International Labor Organization (ILO) and Swedish Workplace HIV/AIDS Program (SWHAP), marked the day at the Security Group Africa (SGA) Head Office in Mbezi Beach, Dar es Salaam.

In his remarks read on his behalf by Ms. Kiyola, ATE Executive Director, Dr. Aggrey Mlimuka, said his association was eyeing for zero deaths as well as zero new infections.

"The main objective of the world is to eliminate the disease by 2030, but we cannot attain this achievement if people are not taking precaution measures for self-testing in order to identify the status of their health," he said.

Dr. Mlimuka said HIV/AIDS was still a big problem as it is in other countries in the continent and that its effects were still a thorny issue, something that affects the country's development.

"Although the rate at which the disease has been affecting people has consistently been dwindling, there are regions like Dar es Salaam where HIV/AIDS prevalence is still high," he added.

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