HEALTH

by Ben Taylor

Ebola border alert
The government has established health screening of travellers entering the country from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), as the spread of Ebola continues through parts of the DRC. By late August, a total of 90 people in the DRC had been diagnosed with Ebola with 50 people pronounced dead since the outbreak began earlier this year.

Minister for Health, Community Development, Gender, Children and Elders Ummy Mwalimu, told a press conference in Dar es Salaam that although the World Health Organisation (WHO) had recently in its report placed Tanzania at a higher risk, there was not even a single case reported in the country.

The minister added that the government has deployed 35 medics along with thermal body scanners to key entry points. “Thermal Scanners are devices meant to detect high body temperature as a clue for Ebola dis­ease,” explained the Minister. Ms Mwalimu noted that the government has enhanced its integrated disease surveillance and response system in the country’s border posts that are frequently used by DRC nationals to cross into the country.

Ms Mwalimu noted further that the government will closely work with the World Health Organisation (WHO) and other international organi­sations responsible for health as per the law to prevent the Ebola preva­lence. “We have also convened an emergence meeting for our National Task Force responsible for the disease,” she said.

Ms Mwalimu assured the public that there was so far no any case of person with Ebola in the country, urging the people to remain watchful against the disease. (Daily News)

New HIV/AIDS Strategy launched
The Minister also launched the fourth national multi-sectoral strategic framework for HIV and AIDS plan, saying the new plan aims to reach out to the entire population in the country.

We want everyone to understand their HIV status. This is the only option that will help end the fight against AIDs,” she said.

The global target set for 2030 is to end HIV and AIDs, while the UN aims by 2020 to have 90% of people living with HIV diagnosed, 90% of diagnosed people on antiretroviral treatment and 90% of people in treatment with fully suppressed viral load. However, Tanzania remains some distance off these targets. The minister said 48% of the population of people living with HIV and AIDs do not know their status.

A key element of the new strategy is to reach out to every place where people gather in large numbers, including football matches and popular music concerts. “We will not force people to test for HIV, but we will make sure there are facilities everywhere for people to understand their status,” said the Minister.

“We’re also looking at the possibility that the law should allow indi­viduals to get HIV test kits and test on their own,” she said, explaining that this will encourage a lot more to seek medical help after knowing their status.

The plan will increase the number of health centres providing Voluntary Counselling and Testing (VCT) services to 2,800. It will also focus on cultural barriers that hinder the fight against Aids, including ending stigma and discrimination which experts say kills and discourages peo­ple especially men seeking medical help.

United Nations agency for HIV and AIDs (UNAIDs) and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) representatives praised the government initiatives for fighting HIV/AIDS but called for action to be stepped up in order to meet the global targets. (Daily News)

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