by Ben Taylor

Concern over rising diabetes burden
Experts on non-communicable diseases (NCDs) have predicted that the cost of curbing diabetes in Tanzania and other eastern African countries will increase from $3.8 billion in 2015 to $16.2 billion by 2030. The Lancet Diabetes and Endocrinology Commission on Diabetes in sub-Saharan Africa, say the cost associated with the disease could more than double in sub-Saharan Africa by 2030, with Tanzania, Kenya and Ethiopia especially hard-hit. They say that this is likely to happen if type 2 diabetes cases continue to increase.

“We conclude that sub-Saharan Africa is not prepared for the increasing burden of diabetes brought about by rapid and ongoing transitions,” said the commission’s report. “Effective management of diabetes in sub-Saharan Africa will require careful considerations about the expansion of services to meet current and future burden, while ensuring that services are integrated with those for other chronic diseases. The health, economic, and societal consequences of inaction will be huge. Decisive action is needed now, by all stakeholders, to address the scale and urgency of diabetes in sub-Saharan Africa.”

The report estimates that the economic cost of diabetes in sub-Saharan Africa in 2015 totalled $19.5 billion, equivalent to 1.2% of the region’s GDP. More than half of this economic cost is spent on accessing diabetes treatment, including medication and hospital stays. The remaining economic costs were a result of productivity losses, mostly from early death, as well as people leaving the workforce early, taking sick leave and being less productive at work due to poor health.

Rapid societal transitions that are producing increases in wealth, urbanisation, changing lifestyle and eating habits, more sedentary work practices and aging populations have led to increased risk of type 2 diabetes. (The Citizen)

Tanzania moves to put all people living with HIV on ARVs
TANZANIA officially started anti-retroviral (ARV) treatment for people living with HIV after testing positive effective October last year, with the government announcing that the new arrangement targets 1.2 million victims. The move comes in the wake of a World Health Organisation (WHO) directive in 2015 that any HIV-positive person must immediately be put on anti-retroviral treatment regardless of CD4 count.

The WHO directive followed studies that established that it was safer for patients to start using the drugs before the CD4 count dropped. Previously, Tanzania was applying a system under which only patients whose CD4 cell count had dropped to below 350 qualified for the therapy.

The Deputy Minister for Health, Community Development, Gender, Elderly and Children, Dr Hamisi Kigwangalla, told Parliament that between July 2015 and June 2016, about 84,000 people who had tested HIV positive were enrolled for ARVs treatment.

“We will ensure that whoever is found with HIV, including children and elders, start taking the drugs straightway,” said the deputy minister.

The government also plans to include a new generic version of the antiretroviral drug Dolutegravir (DTG) in the national HIV/Aids treatment protocols. The Minister of Health, Community Development, Gender, Elderly and Children, Ms Ummy Mwalimu, told The Citizen that the ARV had been lined up for registration and licensing by the Tanzania Food and Drugs Authority (TFDA). A generic of DTG, first approved in the United States in 2013, is already in use in Kenya and has the backing of Unitai, the global health initiative working to end tuberculosis, HIV/ Aids and malaria epidemics.

“Shipments are scheduled to start in January 2018 after the TFDA’s registration process is completed,” said the Minister. She added that Tanzania would start using the generic drug in combination with other ARVs. DTG, whose brand name is Tivicay, is produced by ViiV Healthcare, which is majority-owned by British pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline.

A total of 1.4 million Tanzanians were estimated to be living with HIV in 2015. An estimated 54,000 new infections and 36,000 AIDS-related deaths occur in Tanzania each year. (Daily News, The Citizen)

Government reiterates respect for traditional healers
The Minister for Health, Community Development, Gender, Elders and Children, Ummy Mwalimu, told parliament that traditional healers are legally recognised by the government through the Traditional and Alternative Health Practice Council, 2002. She said that the government has set-up a new registration system for herbalist and traditional healers, where they are supposed to register at their specific localities under the office of the District Medical Officers (DMOs).

The minister was responding to questions from MPs. Joseph Kasheku, Geita Rural MP, expressed concern with the level of education of some of the practising herbalists in the country, and called on the government to come up with an educational plan for traditional healers, especially since many Tanzanians depend on their services. Ushetu MP, Elias Kwandikwa, wanted to know why the government was arresting traditional healers in Ushetu District.

In 1974, the Traditional Medicine Research Unit was established at the University of Dar es Salaam, and in 1989 the government set up a Traditional Health Services Unit in order to unify traditional health practitioners and mobilise them to form their own association.

Traditional health services were officially recognised in the National Health Policy of 1990, and in 2002 the Traditional and Alternative Medicines Act was introduced. (Daily News)

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