How CDC, Amref Tanzania project fights AIDS in Simiyu

SIMIYU: THE Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Amref Health Africa Tanzania have launched the Afya Thabiti project to help the government eradicate the AIDS epidemic by 2030 in Simiyu and Mara.

Right! The project valued at 15.8 million US dollars for the financial year 2024 will implement evidence-based HIV prevention and treatment programs in health facilities and communities in Mara, Simiyu, and Zanzibar, while aligning health system strengthening activities towards epidemic control.

This initiative is part of the global efforts to end the AIDS epidemic by 2030 funded by the US President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) through the US Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Tanzania.

During the launch, Dr George Mgomella, the Associate Director for Programs at CDC, noted: “I am very excited to join you today to officially launch the “Afya Thabiti” project worth 15.8 million US dollars for the financial year 2024.

The project aims to sustain and accelerate a comprehensive HIV response in Tanzania.” Dr Mgomella further highlighted that the second Tanzania HIV Impact Survey (THIS) 2022-2023 demonstrated substantial programme progress, especially in the areas of antiretroviral therapy (ART) coverage and HIV viral load suppression among people living with HIV.

“The survey estimated that among people aged 15 years and older living with HIV in Tanzania, 83 per cent are aware of their status, 98 per cent of those aware of their HIV status are on ART, and 94 per cent of those on ART are virally suppressed.

“This is a significant accomplishment, but we must keep on the good work to reach the last mile in the HIV fight especially by ensuring that men and younger people are aware of their HIV status.” It is for this reason that he pointed out that the introduced project will also monitor, evaluate, and review the efficient management, collection, and analysis of accurate and timely HIV information.

In this project, 95 per cent of People Living with HIV (PLHIV) will know their status, 95 per cent will be on lifelong antiretroviral treatment, and 95 per cent will achieve viral suppression.

Afya Thabiti was officially launched by Simiyu Regional Commissioner, Dr Yahaya Nawanda, in the presence of a variety of stakeholders, including government officials, representatives of development partners (PEPFAR-CDC), Amref Health Africa staff, civil society organisations, implementing partners, regional religious leaders, communities, and the private sector.

Dr Nawanda stressed the importance of the project in reducing the spread of HIV/ AIDS in Simiyu and controlling new infections. He mentioned that the HIV infection rate has decreased from 3.9 per cent in the Tanzania HIV Impact Survey (THIS) conducted in 2016/2017 to 3.7 per cent in THIS 2022/2023.

He appreciated the efforts being made to combat HIV/ AIDS. Similarly, the Regional Commissioner of Mara, Said Mohamed Mtanda, emphasised the need to control and reduce new HIV/AIDS infections in line with national and global goals of 95-95-95.

This comes after THIS 2022/2023 revealed that the Mara region has a higher infection rate of 5 per cent, compared to the national rate of 4.4 per cent. Mtanda stressed the importance of continued cooperation and consultation to improve plans for providing HIV/ AIDS services in the region.

Dr George Mgomella, Associate Director of Programmes at the U.S. CDC in Tanzania, praised the progress made in the fight against HIV in Mara, Simiyu and Zanzibar regions on behalf of U.S CDC Tanzania Country Director.

The CDC has urged these regions to continue working in partnership to combat the disease.

PEPFAR, through the CDC, is prioritising efforts to extend evidence-based HIV prevention and treatment programs to healthcare workers in hard-to-reach areas of Tanzania.

The U.S. government recognises the Ministry of Health, President’s Office – Regional Administration and Local Government Authority (PORALG), regional officials, local government authorities, and non-governmental and civil society organisations for their commitment to improving health outcomes in Tanzania.

Dr Florence Temu, Country Director of Amref Health Africa in Tanzania, explained that the Afya Thabiti project seeks to increase the number of people living with HIV/AIDS who know their status through HIV testing.

It aims to provide long-term and sustained quality antiretroviral treatment (ART) services and viral load testing to ensure viral suppression.

The project will provide HIV testing services, link newly identified PLHIV to active ART services, provide highquality comprehensive prevention and treatment to PLHIV, offer high-quality VMMC services for HIV prevention, and scale up innovative and effective interventions for HIV prevention and treatment services for at-risk individuals.

Additionally, the project will strengthen monitoring and evaluation (M&E) reporting, clinical surveillance, and use of routinely collected data for improving program performance. The Afya Thabiti Project is one of Amref’s health initiatives in Tanzania and will contribute to reducing the country’s burden of HIV and AIDS.

According to THIS for the year 2022/2023, the average rate of HIV infection among people aged 15 and above is 4.4 per cent in the country.

This means that in every 100 people, four people are living with HIV. It is estimated that approximately 1,548,000 people are living with HIV in the country, and among them, 1,517,040 people are getting anti-HIV drugs from centres that provide services in various Councils. In addition, the study found that the rate of clients who achieved the required level (Viral Load Suppression) in Tanzania is 94.3 per cent for those on medication.

The five-year “Afya Thabiti” project is implemented by Amref Health Africa Tanzania in partnership with the Centre for International Health, Education and Biosecurity Tanzania (Ciheb-Tz), Tanzania Communication and Development Centre (TCDC) and Afya Plus aligns with the PEPFAR and the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/ AIDS (UNAIDS) fast track targets of 95-95-95 by 2030.

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