Free drugs for HIV/AIDS patients
Wednesday 14 September 2005
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TANZANIA: Free drugs for HIV/AIDS patients

[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]


DAR ES SALAAM, 31 August (PLUSNEWS) - Tanzanian President Benjamin Mkapa announced on Tuesday that the government would start distributing antiretroviral drugs (ARVs) free to HIV/AIDS patients from October.

"There is no cure for AIDS yet, these drugs can only prolong lives," Mkapa said in the commercial capital, Dar es Salaam, during the signing of an US $87.9-million grant from the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.

He said more than two million Tanzanians were infected with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.

"Among those infected with HIV, more than 500,000 Tanzanians already have AIDS and are in danger of dying within the next few years," he added.

He urged the public to go for voluntary testing to know whether or not they are infected.

He added: "A person who lives with HIV/AIDS without knowing puts at risk not only his own life but also the lives of others. People should not become complacent and get contended with the drugs. You must protect yourself against infection."

Mkapa pledged that the government would increase its funding of the fight against HIV/AIDS.

Access to ARVs is currently limited to less than 1 percent of people living with HIV/AIDS in Tanzania, according to Ministry of Health statistics.

At the signing of the agreement, Elhaj Sy of the Global Fund said the money would go towards improving voluntary testing for HIV and distribution of ARVs.

"Stigma, which results in loss of jobs, isolation and loneliness, is a major factor undermining voluntary testing," he said.

Elhaj said he hoped more Tanzanians would come forward for voluntary testing. "With enough commitment, Tanzanians can successfully wipe out the AIDS scourge no matter how big and challenging the problem is," he said.

In emotional messages at the ceremony, representatives of Tanzanians living with HIV/AIDS urged the government to distribute ARVs fairly to all infected people.

"Our hope is that the funds from the Global Fund would mean a better future for all Tanzanians living with the virus," Rodgers Nzota, a young man HIV-positive man, said.

According to Mkapa, the grant will be used in five main areas, including capacity-building in voluntary counselling and testing in 45 out of 121 Tanzanian districts.

The target is to have at least five HIV counselling and testing centres for every 100,000 people vulnerable to HIV/AIDS.

"The funds will also support extension of care and support to HIV/AIDS and TB patients, integration of medical care for TB and HIV/AIDS patients and increasing the number of community-based centres that support people living with HIV and TB," Mkapa said.

He added that the funds would also support capacity building for the Ministry of Health and its institutions in planning, monitoring and evaluating the implementation of national AIDS and TB programmes.


Recent TANZANIA Reports
Some local healers help relieve AIDS; others are charlatans,  1/Sep/05
New anti-AIDS programme unveiled,  21/Jul/05
Free ARVs for 100,000 by 2006, prime minister says,  17/Jun/05
Local firm to produce ARVs starting next year,  30/May/05
New phase of HIV/AIDS awareness campaign launched,  10/May/05
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