THE fight against HIV/AIDS has been bolstered as the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has committed 129.8m US$ (approximately 290bn/-) for the cause in some districts of Tanzania.
Speaking at the Kilimanjaro Christian Medical Centre (KCMC), the Elizabeth Glaser Paediatric AIDS Foundation (EGPAF) Tanzania Country Director, Dr Jeroen Van’t Pad Bosch, said they are committed to reduce the effects of the malady and head towards zero infections.
Dr Bosch said his organization’s goal, among others, was to test viral load for 170,000 people living with HIV so that appropriate interventions are carried out.
EGPAF started implementation of the project dubbed USAID Boresha Afya (UBA) and would be in six regions, while there are other organizations sharing the said fund covering other areas.
Speaking at KCMC after touring facilities supported by EGPAF through USAID funding and speaking to mainly adolescent and youth clients, Dr Bosch expressed optimism that the five-year project would be very helpful, and see infected people lead normal lives.
The project that started in April this year sees EGPAF undertake missions that seek to end paediatric HIV/AIDS through research, advocacy, and prevention and treatment programme implementation.
It began supporting HIV and AIDS programmes in Tanzania in 2003 and established a country office in 2004. Dr Bosch said EGPAF Tanzania supported the Tanzanian government to facilitate viral load monitoring through capacity building for laboratory technicians and set up viral load testing labs.
“EGPAF has supported training of personnel and setting up viral load testing laboratory at Kitete Hospital in Tabora, KCMC referral hospital in Kilimanjaro and Mount Meru Hospital in Arusha.
EGPAF is working in collaboration with private and public health facilities in Arusha, Dodoma, Kilimanjaro, Manyara, Singida and Tabora with a goal to test viral load for 170,000 people living with HIV,” he said.
The director was of the view that although global goals to eliminate mother-to-child transmission of HIV might not be reached next year as planned, there had been tremendous progress in recent years.
He pointed out that the progress was towards preventing mother-to-child transmission of HIV global access to Anti-Retroviral Therapy (ART) for women with HIV who are pregnant or breastfeeding is plateauing at around 75 per cent.
That is well below the level needed to eliminate infections before and soon after birth. On the challenges involved, Dr Bosch said that a substantial number of children infected with HIV as infants were not taken for treatment until they reached adolescence, at which point many already suffered from HIV-related health problems.
“When it comes to accessing lifesaving ART, children are being left behind. While more than half of people living with HIV were now on treatment, that rate was far lower for children: globally, only 43 per cent of infants and children up to age 14 with HIV were on ART in 2016.
“Even more troubling, the initiation of ART treatment among children is slowing, with 10 per cent increases in previous years now down to six per cent increase last year.
This deceleration puts the global target of 1.6 million children on ART by 2018 dangerously out of reach,” he said.
0He noted that to date, just as when EGPAF was founded, children were the forgotten face of HIV/AIDS, highlighting that globally only 49 per cent of the 1.8 million children living with HIV had access to the medications they needed to stay healthy.
He was concerned that without treatment, 50 per cent of HIV-positive children would die before their second birthday, and most would die before they turned five.