Number of Mozambicans receiving HIV/AIDS treatment rises

New York- US (PANA) -- The number of HIV-positive Mozambicans receiving the life- prolonging anti-retroviral therapy has risen by over 1,500 per cent within the l a st three years.
Speaking here Tuesday, at the United Nations General Assembly meeting on HIV/AID S, Mozambican President Armando Guebuza said while in January 2005 only 6,000 pe o ple had received anti-retroviral drugs, by April this year the number had risen t o over 100,000.
The number of health units providing the anti-retroviral treatment had risen to 213, compared to just 21 in 2004, Guebuza said, adding that this meant the treat m ent was now available in all of Mozambique's 128 districts.
There had been similar progress in the prevention of HIV/AIDS transmission from mother to child and the treatment is now available in every district.
Nonetheless, Guebuza insisted the key to fighting the epidemic must lie in preve ntion.
Among the measures Mozambique had taken, he recalled, was the presidential initi ative on HIV/AIDS, launched in February 2006, which consisted in Guebuza holding separate meetings on the epidemic and how to fight it with women, religious lead e rs, business people, community leaders, and youth.
The initiative was replicated at provincial and district levels, and in public a nd private institutions.
Though one cannot categorically establish a cause-effect relationship between th e initiative and a change of attitude among Mozambicans, Guebuza believed there h ad been progress in the way people see the pandemic.
He noted that a growing number of people now speak openly about HIV/AIDS and see it more as a chronic disease, rather than a death sentence.
The incidence of HIV infection in Mozambique appears to have stabilised at aroun d 16 per cent of adults aged 15 to 49, with an increasing number of people comin g voluntarily to the testing and counselling centres and are less ashamed of usin g the treatment services in the health units, claimed the President.
Guebuza announced the government had set up a task force, headed by Health Minis ter Ivo Garrido, to study and recommend, by the end of this month, the best ways to render prevention strategies even more effective.
"It is our expectation that this group will shed more light on what we can do to revert the current scenario," said Guebuza.
Speaking with Mozambican reporters covering the meeting, Guebuza stressed that t he country needed to train more health workers and increase the number of health units, so as to overcome two of the main constraints on extending health care to more people living with HIV/AIDS, particularly in the rural areas.
Another thing that hinders further progress in the fight against HIV/AIDS, is th e fact that the pandemic is ever more associated with tuberculosis, a situation w orsened by the appearance of a type of TB that is highly resistant to drugs, whi c h calls for a global integration of the fight against the two diseases.
Monday, Guebuza attended a meeting of Global leaders on HIV/AIDS and tuberculosi s, where he delivered a speech on the Mozambican experience in the fight against the double threat.

12 june 2008 15:29:00

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