Anti STDs, Hepatitis B fight in top gear

DAR ES SALAAM: THE government has intensified the fight against HIV/AIDS in the country by intergrading the coordination of Sexual Transmitted Diseases (STDs) and Hepatitis for the objective of reaching many people and increasing efficiency in the provision of services.

The coordination of the diseases has been integrated through the National Aids, Sexual Transmitted Diseases and Hepatitis Control Programme (NASHCoP) which was launched in Dar es Salaam on Friday by Minister for Health Ms Ummy Mwalimu.

“We have made an assessment and realised that we are making progress in the fight against HIV/AIDS but less attention is being given to STDs, and Hepatitis B is on rise in the country, especially to special groups such as drug addicts as well as STDs which also contribute greatly to weakening the health of citizens and facilitate spread of new HIV infections,” Ms Mwalimu said.

She said in 2015 the ministry came up with a strategic plan for Hepatitis control but was sluggishly implemented with services focusing most on service providers.

“I was not satisfied with the trend that is why I refused to give any statement during the commemoration World Hepatitis Day but to date I am confident to see that we have realised our dreams and we are launching an inclusive strategic plan which will include Hepatitis B, HIV and STDs,” she said.

The minister said that the government has recoded success in the fight against HIV/AIDS by reducing new infection rate, the number of deaths and stigmatisation among others.

She said despite the success less attention has been given to the control of STDs and Hepatitis B which she said relate to each other because they have shared modes of transmission with HIV/ AIDS.

The minister said a person who has an STD is at risk of contracting HIV   if they are exposed to the virus through sexual contact than an uninfected one while a person who is HIV positive and also has an STD is more likely to transmit HIV through sexual contact than other HIV infected persons.

She said STDs and Hepatitis B which are on the rise in the country pose high burden to the government and individuals due to high cost of their treatment, especially Hepatitis B.

The minister said between January and September this year a total of 6,542 people were diagnosed with STDs in the country, noting that the number is only for those who went to the health facilities for diagnosis.

“This is just a small number of people suffering from the diseases, there are many of them who are not going to the hospital. They end up treating themselves at home with antibiotics without doctor’s prescription. “This practice is harmful to our health because it results into antimicrobial resistance,” she said.

The minister said the groups that are at risk of contracting HIV, STDs and Hepatitis includes miners, fishers, long distance drivers and pastoralists who usually move from one place to another.

“There is a large number of people treating Pelvic Infections Diseases (PID) by themselves with antibiotics instead of going to hospital, and that is a reason for the new spread of HIV and Hepatitis B,” she said.

Ms Ummy said currently the government works on educating the public on the diseases especially STDs and Hepatitis because most people ignore them.

“We want to contain the spreads of these diseases by educating the public and encourage them to go for testing and get treatment especially for STDs and Hepatitis because there are also vaccines especially for Hepatitis B,” added Ummy.

World Health Organisation (WHO) Country Representative Dr Moses Sagoe – Charles said that they are happy to be part of the processes that Tanzanian government has taken to develop the integrated strategy plan of NASHCoP.

“This newly developed strategy is well aligned to the existence of major national document including the health sector strategic plan 5 and the national AIDS control plan has managed to do so for the three diseases,” said Dr Moses.

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