Saturday, February 26, 2011

Testing for HIV is an economical prevention strategy against AIDS, says a researcher

AS Researchers all over the world are working towards an effective HIV vaccine in a constrained global economy, cost effective preventive strategies such as Couples Voluntary Counseling and Testing (CVCT) must take a larger role in efforts to decrease the rates of HIV/AIDS in societies. The majority of new HIV infections which are acquired from a spouse and couples are the largest HIV risk group in Africa, Tanzania included, says Susan Allen, a researcher and a Professor of pathology and laboratory medicine. According to her, by using CVCT, it’s clear to identify those people who do not share the same HIV status as their spouse or partner are in a better place to move forward effectively and efficiently once a vaccine does become available. Professor Susan who has worked to combat AIDS in Africa for 25 years now says that, “CVCT is an economical sustainable and proven model for reducing the rate of HIV/AIDS infections”. Her research works reveals that, CVCT is very low in most parts of African communities and in view of this, her statistics proves that, out of more than 30 million Africans tested for HIV, less than one percent has been tested with their spouses. Statistics by her research shows that, an estimated 23 million Africans whom are HIV positive, only 3 million patients are receiving anti-retroviral treatment, therefore to ascertain its impact, however, she concludes that CVCT being part of broader HIV/AIDS strategy, must be emphasized broadly and effectively. Tanzania has established many Voluntary Counseling and Testing (VCT) centres where HIV/AIDS counseling is provided. The tests are free and confidential. This means that a counselor cannot tell anyone about the results of an infected person without his/her permission. The on-going counseling and testing campaigns in the country helps one to live positively with HIV and provides one with support and guidance in regard to any problem that one may face. However, this kind of counseling that happens after one has received test results, its aim is to manage the impact that HIV has on one’s life. Other factors are to explore the advantages and disadvantages of telling other people about their status, the infected people have to seek for both emotional as well as psychological support, eating a health diet as well as leaving how to control the amount of stress in their life and plan for the future. According to a Dar es Salaam based Dr. Wilfred Machibya, voluntary testing can work particularly now that anti-retroviral therapy are becoming affordable in almost every HIV designated clinics in the country. It’s just a matter of joining the required dose. The US based Agency for International Development (USAID) supports both HIV negative and positive people to create personalized plans to reduce their risky behavior through its long standing VCT programs in Sub-Saharan Africa, Tanzania included. The US government spends approximately USD 2.2 billion on bilateral foreign assistance budget on anti-retroviral treatment. Testing one patient for 10 years costs about USD 7,000, in comparison, providing couples with voluntary counseling and testing would prevent new HIV infections at a cost of about USD 300 each. In Sub-Saharan Africa, as many as 1 in 10 people may not know their HIV status and therefore, there is a need of addressing a complex issue related to HIV counseling and testing with couples who currently constitute the largest risk group in Africa for HIV transmission. Statistics by UNAIDS in Tanzania shows that, adults who are at the age of 30 to 39 are more vulnerable to HIV infections than the other age group. The report identifies that the risky sexual acts still prevail among men and women. The data shows that, HIV prevalence is the highest for women aged between 30 and 34 this is 10.4 percent, while prevalence for men of the same age is only 7.4 percent. Up to mid 2010, it was estimated that 1.5 million people including adults and children were living with HIV. The report came amid the results of the nationwide campaigns on the voluntary testing carried out in 2008 through various VCT centers such as those of Angaza which are sponsored by Africa Medical Research Foundation (AMREF). Statistics by the organization shows that, over three million people have been tested at their VCT sponsored centres in the country. The organization is highly encouraging Tanzanian citizens to get tested in order to know their HIV status. While it’s about 4 years for the UN Millennium Development Goals to be accomplished, Tanzania still has a long way to go on the issue of tackling HIV/AIDS disease. Shortages of human resources and inadequate capacity for capabilities were accounted for major challenges.

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