Tanzania makes significant progress in HIV/Aids fight 

Prime Minister Kassim Majaliwa reads a newspaper when he visited the WHO pavilion during the World Aids Day event in Morogoro yesterday. On the left is United Nations Resident Coordinator Zlatan Mativic. PHOTO | JUMA MTANDA

What you need to know:

  • The results of the study shows remarkable success, including a decline in the frequency of new infections among persons over the age of 15

Dar es Salaam. Tanzania has achieved significant progress in HIV/Aids testing, treatment, and awareness, despite the challenges of low male engagement and dangerous youth conduct, according to the new Tanzania HIV Impact Survey 2022-2023 (THIS) study.

The report was launched yesterday in the Morogoro Region during the 2023 commemoration of World AIDS Day, which was graced by Prime Minister Kassim Majaliwa.

The Premier stated that the study findings showed great success, including a decrease in the incidence of new infections among adults aged 15 and above.

According to the new data, new infections have decreased from an annual average rate of 72,000 in 2016/2017 to 60,000 this year.

“This is equivalent to a reduction of 0.18 percent, where 2.24 percent are women and 0.11 percent are men, who are fewer because they do not appear in encouraging numbers for testing. Therefore, they are unaware of their health status, hence enabling them to be enrolled for medication,” he said.

Mr Majaliwa, who doubles as a Ruangwa Constituency legislator, emphasised that the youth were vulnerable to the malady, citing factors such as risky behaviours and an increased lack of awareness.

“Research findings have revealed that the HIV viral load suppression rate is growing to an average of 78 percent in total, compared to 52 percent recorded in the 2016/2017 survey. For women, the rate is 80.9 percent, while for men, it is 72.2 percent,” he said, highlighting that statistics related to men were low because the group’s number of people who use suppression drugs remains relatively low.

Furthermore, he said HIV prevalence among individuals aged 15 and above in the Mainland Tanzania regions ranges from 1.7 percent in Kigoma to 12.7 percent in Njombe, Mbeya, and Iringa.

“Njombe Region has a prevalence rate of over 9 percent, twice the national rate,” he said. Data by the United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) estimates that HIV prevalence for adult Tanzanians stood at 4.5 percent,” said the premier.

The UNAIDS report shows that for Zanzibar, the prevalence ranges from 0.2 percent in North Pemba to 0.8 percent in Unguja South regions, respectively.

“Research findings also show that among individuals aged 15 and above living with HIV, 83 percent were aware of their status, compared to 61 percent in 2016/17,” said Prime Minister Majaliwa.

“Ninety-eight percent of those who know their status are using suppression drugs, compared to 94 percent recorded previously,” he said.

Commemorated every December 1st, World Aids Day 2023 went under the theme “Let communities lead.” In Tanzania, the theme was translated into the national slogan “Let the community lead in eradicating HIV/Aids,” aimed at emphasising the importance of the community’s role in the fight against the global epidemic.

“The slogan was endorsed in order to address the challenge of insufficient involvement of the community in leading the response against HIV/Aids in the country,” he said.

This challenge, he said, contributed to the lack of resources, including finances and expertise, and a challenging environment for the continuity of delivery of HIV prevention and treatment services.

He said it was time now for stakeholders and civil society organisations to improve collaboration in the efforts against HIV/Aids and ensure accountability.

For her part, the minister of Health, Ms Ummy Mwalimu, unveiled government efforts implemented to combat HIV/Aids, including increasing the number of facilities for the provision of prevention services from mother to child from 6,919 centres recorded last year to 7,072 in 2023.

“We will also ensure that facilities for HIV/Aids treatment and care are expanded across the country,” she said.

She noted an increase in the distribution of self-test kits to 1,012,000 in 2023, with 89 percent returning results in hospitals and health centres.

She mentioned that last year, the government distributed 735,900 test kits, with 90 percent of users returning results in hospitals and health centres.

“We will increase the number of tests to enable people to carry out self-tests and thus eliminate the stigma facing people living with HIV,” she said.

Additionally, Ms Mwalimu insisted that the government has successfully integrated the fight against HIV/Aids with that of sexually transmitted diseases and hepatitis B.

This, she said, is backed by the World Health Organisation (WHO) statistics showing similarities in the transmission, control, and treatment methods between the said diseases.

The National Council of People Living with HIV/Aids in Tanzania, Ms Leticia Morris, said the community was excited about the endorsement of the Universal Health Insurance policy that will ensure that affected Tanzanians have access to different types of treatments.

“Many of us require special treatments, but we cannot afford them due to higher costs. We would like to ask the government to fast-track implementation of the policy for the wider interest of the population,” she said.