FIGHTING HIV/AIDS: UNAIDS lauds TZ milestone

THE United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) has commended Tanzania for consistently reducing the number of new HIV infections and deaths by 50 percent between 2010 and 2021.

Reports indicate that in 2010 the number of people who were newly infected by HIV stood at 110,000 and AIDS related deaths accounted for 54, 0000 lives.

UNAIDS Executive Director (ED) Ms Winnie Byanyima disclosed this during the launch of the new UNAIDS Report dubbed ‘Dangerous Inequalities’ held in Dar es Salaam, yesterday.

According to her, the commendable milestone recorded by Tanzania was among reasons that pushed UNAIDS to launch the global report within the country.

“The number of new infections and deaths have dropped by 50 per cent since 2010…it shows that Tanzania is a leader and strong performer in fighting this disease,” said Ms Byanyima.

Among the other reasons the report was launched in the country, she said, was because they stood in solidarity with President Samia Suluhu Hassan, the first woman President in the Eastern African Region.

“I speak on behalf of many African women who see her as a role model…we look up to her,” she said.

She indicated that their analysis has identified inequalities as a hindrance to ending AIDS globally as it was agreed by governments.

The ED was of the view that on current trends the world will not meet agreed global targets on AIDS unless concerted efforts are taken to get the response on track.

“World leaders should equalize access to rights, services, best science and medicine to end AIDS…we must equalize for women and girls to reduce their risks of HIV infections.

“The Effects of gender inequalities on women HIV risks are especially pronounced in Sub-Saharan Africa where women accounted for 63 percent of new HIV infections in 2021,” stated the ED.

On the other hand, adolescent girls and young women aged 15 to 24 years are three times more likely to acquire HIV than their counterparts.

She suggested that through enabling girls to stay in school until they complete their secondary education reduce their vulnerability to infection by 50 percent.

Besides, the report shows that the AIDS response was held back by inequalities in access to treatment between adults and children.

“While three percent of adults living with HIV are on antiretroviral therapy, just over half of the children living with HIV are on lifesaving medicine…this has already had consequences.

“In 2021, children accounted for 4 percent of all people living with HIV but 15 percent of All AIDS-related deaths. Closing the treatment gap of children will save lives.

As such, budgets need to prioritize the health and wellbeing of all people, especially vulnerable populations. Fiscal space for health investment in low and middle income countries need to be expanded, including through substantial debt cancellation and progressive taxation.

The Minister of State, Prime Minister’s Office (Policy, Coordination and Parliamentary Affairs), Mr George Simbachawene noted that the important message that AIDS can be eliminated by ending inequalities resonates strongly with the Tanzania vision 2025 which identifies health as  one  of the priority sectors contributing to higher livelihood for all Tanzanians.

“To catalyze the realization of the long term endeavour, our national development plan of 2021/2022 to 2024/2025 seeks to raise both availability and quality health, education, skills development and other social services,” noted the Minister.

For his part, the deputy Minister for Health, Dr Godwin Mollel suggested that the only way to drop the inequalities was procurement and through investing in drugs and equipment factories in developing countries.

Dr Mollel said the initiative will boost the financial capacities of the countries as well build capacity and create jobs which are at times contributing factors of new infections.

Commenting on the sidelines of the event, the Executive Director of Tanzania Commission for AIDS, Dr Leornard Maboko revealed that the milestone recorded by Tanzania in reducing HIV/AIDS infection rate and deaths is owed to collective efforts among government and its key stakeholders through the various campaigns

He hinted that the current push is on the current epidemic reflected from the data which is among the youths between the age groups of 15-24 years.

“Various measures have been directed to the youth including raising awareness, capaciting them with entrepreneurship knowledge as well as seed money to be able to support them financially,” he said.

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