How ‘Afya Hatua’ drops HIV prevalence in Kigoma

THE Prevention of Mother to Child Transmissions (PMTCT) rate in Kigoma Region has seen a remark- able decline, nearly reaching zero per cent from its previous standing of one per cent and that is down from 1.3 per cent in 2022.

Indeed it is a significant achievement! This promising outcome has been made possible through the collaborative efforts of the government and stakeholders, spearheaded by the five-year ‘Afya Hatua’ project implementation (2021-2026).

The ‘Afya Hatua’ project is jointly executed by the Tanzanian government and the Tanzania Health Promotion Support (THPS) organisation throughout Kigoma, with support from the U.S.

President’s Emergency Fund for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) through the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The primary focus of ‘Afya Hatua’ is to enhance retention in Antiretroviral Therapy (ART) services for care recipients.

Shedding light on this, Kigoma Regional HIV Con- trol Coordinator, Dr Hosea William, attributed this positive drop to effective public education initiatives.

These efforts involve mobilising pregnant wom- en accompanied by their partners to promptly attend clinics upon conceiving, early HIV testing allows for immediate treatment of infected individuals, preventing new HIV transmissions that could affect unborn children.

Couples identified with HIV receive counseling on safe sexual practices and adherence to Antiretroviral Therapies (ARTs) for virus suppression.

Continuous Medicine availability, specifically effective ARTs like ‘Te- nofovir,’ ‘Lamivudine,’ and ‘Dolutegravir (TLD),’ supplement the program’s success.

Ongoing training of service providers ensures optimal care delivery to those in need. “Good enough; we have never run out of medicine stocks,” he said.

Furthermore, newborns from HIV-infected mothers are promptly provided with preventive drugs such as AZT/3TC or Nevilap- ine syrup, tailored based on their risk levels.

‘Afya Hatua’ implementers prioritize immediate intervention to safeguard infants born to HIV-positive mothers, ensuring their health and safety.

“We’ve learned that some expectant mothers who abstain from drug use do so because of false beliefs; the primary perpetra- tors are witch doctors,” he noted.

Adding, “Some religious leaders also persuade victims to stop using drugs by claiming that spiritual miracles are the only way to heal them.”

To combat misinformation influencing HIV care, public education campaigns emphasize the distinction between spiritual and scientific medical interventions.

Regular HIV testing is encouraged for all individu- als to achieve the global 95- 95-95 strategy goal by 2030: ensuring 95 percent awareness of health status, 95 percent diagnosis of HIV infections receiving ARTs, and 95 percent viral suppression among those on treatment.

KIGOMA Regional HIV Control Coordinator, Dr Hosea William, explains a point on HIV-related question during a public education at Kanazi Dispensary in
Kasulu District

Additionally, THPS has facilitated the establishment of approximately 20 HIV children clubs, benefitting over 477 minors aged 0-9 years and around 893 aged 10-19 years.

These clubs offer essential HIV-related training, including reproductive health education, guiding youth towards healthy behaviors and preventing new transmissions.

Through the installation of a Biometric Finger Registration system, THPS ensures accurate data man- agement for individuals on ARTs, optimizing service delivery.

Notably, the prevalence of HIV in Kigoma has reduced to 1.7 percent in 2022-2023, from 2.9 per cent in 2016/17, signifying progress towards achieving zero PMTCT in the near fu- ture.

“We also look forward to attaining zero PMTCT in a few days,” he assured.

Also read: https://dailynews.co.tz/hiv-prevalence-drops-slightly-in-bukoba-mc/

THPS Regional Man- ager, Dr Julius Zelothe, highlighted the biometric system’s role in streamlin- ing HIV victim registration, particularly among mobile populations like fishermen, pastoralists, and miners.

The organization guar- antees consistent ART supply to all Care and Treatment Centers (CTCs) to prevent stock outs and sup- porting the fight against new HIV transmissions.

The expansion of CTCs, with approximately 69 cen- ters established since the advent of ‘Afya Hatua,’ further strengthens the battle against HIV spread.

“We are glad that the Tanzanian government makes sure that the drugs available at any time, be it in urban or remote areas,” he said, adding that: “An increase in CTCs also plays a vital role in fighting new HIV transmissions, with about 69 (cen- ters) being made available since the introduction of ‘Afya Hatua’”.

Testimonials from ben- eficiaries like Ms. Golethe Ezekiel from Kasulu District underscore the project’s impact on facilitating access to essential ART services, safeguarding the health of vulnerable populations.

Ultimately, the concerted efforts of stakeholders, healthcare professionals, and beneficiaries are driving transformative change in HIV prevention and care delivery in the Kigoma region, setting a promising precedent for sustainable public health outcomes.

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