HIV prevalence data inaccurate: NBS

Tuesday May 31 2016

Currently, it is estimated that 5.1 per cent of

Currently, it is estimated that 5.1 per cent of Tanzanians aged between 15 and 49 years are HIV positive. 

By Syriacus Buguzi @buguzi

Dar es Salaam.  The current data used for estimating the national HIV prevalence in Tanzania is inaccurate, the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) revealed yesterday.

This means the government has been relying on “inaccurate information” to plan and intervene in the control of the disease for the past 13 years since the first National HIV Indicator Survey was conducted, the NBS director general, Dr Albina Chuwa, told The Citizen.

The NBS boss said the current and previous data only considered persons aged between 15 and 49 years, excluding young children, the elderly and people with disabilities.

“This calls for the government to rethink of conducting a household-based survey that will clearly demonstrate the magnitude of this pandemic in Tanzania,’’ she further noted at a meeting with the country’s HIV and Aids experts in Dar es Salaam.

HIV and Aids stakeholders are now gearing up for a new and hi-tech survey that will accurately provide data to inform policy makers on where, when and how to intervene in the control of the pandemic that has so far killed 34 million people globally.

Currently, it is estimated that 5.1 per cent of Tanzanians aged between 15 and 49 years are HIV positive. The HIV prevalence is reported to be higher among women (6.2 per cent) compared to men (3.8 per cent) and higher in urban than in rural areas.

However, this data was widely disputed yesterday by officials at the meeting organised by the NBS, the Tanzania Commission for Aids (TACAIDS) and the Columbia-based health organisation, ICAP.

The ICAP country director, Dr Fernandes Morales, said a more advanced system of tracking down people living with HIV was highly required at a time when countries were looking forward to achieving ambitious targets of Zero-new infections, Zero-discrimination and Zero-HIV deaths by 2030.

“Without accurate data, it means that our investment in the fight against HIV goes off the track. The current strategy of using more improved technology will serve the purpose,” he told The Citizen on the sidelines of the meeting on HIV and Aids.

The US-based Center for Disease Control (CDC) will finance the new HIV Impact Survey for Mainland Tanzania and Zanzibar at Sh7.4 billion and its implementation kicks off in September this year.

The new data collection and processing method to be soon launched, known as the LAG-Avidity Test, is expected to cover all age groups and people living with disabilities in the country.