DAR ES SALAAM, The rate of HIV infections in Tanzania have been decreasing over the past few years, but the country's Aids commission warns that more prevention and treatment efforts are needed to sustainably slow down the epidemic.
Statistics recorded between 2013 and 2015 show a decline in new HIV infection rates by over 30 per cent, with deaths related to HIV/Aids halved during the past five years.
The Tanzania Commission for Aids and Zanzibar Aids Commission, who convened for two days in Zanzibar mid this week to deliberate on measures to fight the epidemic, noted that the rate of new infections dropped by 33.3 per cent between 2013 and 2015.
The status on HIV diagnosis shows that the year 2013 recorded 72,000 new infection cases, with the number dropping to 69,603 in 2014 and further down to 48,000 in 2015.
While the trend gives a hint that the AIDS prevalence is slowing in the country, the Executive Director for TACAIDS, Dr Leonard Maboko, warned that the rate of infections remain worrying among youths, especially those aged between 15 and 19, who makes 70 per cent of new infections.
Dr Maboko, said the country has been doing well to control the HIV epidemic in recent years, but called for more joint efforts to create awareness among youths, especially girls who are the most affected group.
The TACAIDS boss appar ently suggested that the 'sugar daddy' culture was widespread in Tanzania, whereby young girls were being compelled to engage in sex with older men for financial gains and social advancement.
This is the age when most people become sexually active and often engage in risky sexual behaviour such as non-use of condoms and having multiple sexual partners. There is also deficiency of comprehensive knowledge about HIV among young people, added Dr Maboko.
According to Dr Maboko, the severity of the epidemic varies across the country, with HIV prevalence remaining low in Manyara Region, around 1.5 per cent and high in Njombe, 15 per cent, followed by Iringa and Mbeya, both 9 per cent.
Official figures indicate an HIV prevalence of one per cent in Zanzibar and 4.7 in Mainland Tanzania, but the prevalence is very high among some populations such as people who inject drugs, men who have sex with men, mobile populations and sex workers.
Heterosexual sex accounts for the vast majority (80 per cent) of all HIV infections in Tanzania and women are particularly affected, said Dr Maboko.
Dr Maboko and his ZAC counterpart, Dr Ahmed Khatibu, said at the joint press conference that there is a dire need for mobilizing more domestic financial resources in order to scale up Tanzania's HIV response, especially considering declining financial support from donors.
Despite increased health budget, the Tanzanian HIV response is still heavily reliant on foreign funding, and the TACAIDS and ZAC directors warned, with donor support increasingly becoming unreliable, it is high time the country concentrated on domestic sources to finance national HIV/Aids programmes and interventions.
During the meeting, we discussed on how we can solicit financial resources from domestic sources and avoid reliance on external financial support, said ZAC Executive Director, Dr Khatibu.
Speaking at the event, the chairperson of Parliamentary HIV and AIDS Affairs Committee, Dr Faustine Ndugulile, underscored the importance of increasing domestic financial resources to enable smooth implementation of AIDS programmes.
Tanzania has ratified a number of global HIV/Aids control initiatives and we also have national Aids control programmes for the prevention and treatment of HIV/Aids.
All these programmes need a lot of financial resources, especially from own sources and we MPs have a big role to play to ensure more financial resources are directed to support those programmes.
TACAIDS and ZAC signed a memorandum of understanding with the view to improve cooperation between the two commissions, harmonize HIV/Aids initiatives and reports, as well as exchange experience, expertise and good practices.
Dr Maboko, meanwhile, revealed that a new four-year national report on the status of HIV/ Aids prevalence would be released later this year. The previous report was released in 2012.
Source: NAM NEWS NETWORK