US, Tanzania launch medication assisted therapy for drug users

Dar es Salaam- Tanzania (PANA) -- The United States in collaboration with the Tanzanian government Monday announced the establishment of the first Medication Assisted Therapy (MAT) programme for drug users in sub-Saharan Africa, a crucial part of HIV control that allows addicts to return to a regular, productive and healthier life.
Unveiling the programme here Monday, US Ambassador Alfonso E.
Lenhardt, US Global AIDS Coordinator Ambassador Eric Goosby and Tanzania's Minister of State in Prime Minister's Office Phillip Marmo said the services would be initiated shortly in Dar es Salaam and Zanzibar.
At the same ceremony, Tanzania Drug Control Commission (DCC) in collaboration with PEPFAR Tanzania also made public five documents that will serve as the blueprint for Tanzania's response to HIV among drug users.
As the first country in sub-Saharan Africa to introduce MAT, Tanzania will serve as a model as well as a public health leader in the field of HIV prevention.
''This groundbreaking nationally-led initiative demonstrates commitment at the highest-levels of leadership to the prevention of HIV and the improvement of health services for most-at-risk populations and vulnerable groups in Tanzania,'' Lenhardt said.
The American people, through the US President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) and the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)/Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), are providing funding and technical assistance to the Tanzanian Drug Control Commission (DCC) and to the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare and Muhimbili University of Health and Allied Sciences in Dar es Salaam.
The DCC is an independent government department mandated to define, promote and coordinate government drug control policy, including programmes and interventions contributing to the national HIV response targeting injecting and non-injecting drug use.
Operating under the Prime Minister's Office, the Commission has a governing board with representatives from seven sector ministries from Tanzania Mainland and three from Zanzibar.
Since 2008, the PEPFAR has supported DCC in order to strengthen the Tanzanian government efforts to establish and expand HIV programmes and services for most-at-risk populations, with a particular focus on drug users.
Recognising that high-risk practices related to drug use contribute to the spread of HIV, this inter-ministerial commission has promoted and adopted novel and evidence-based interventions to facilitate improved access to services that prevent HIV among drug users.
As part of this effort, DCC led the development of a framework and a series of policies and guidelines for HIV control related to drug use in Tanzania.
Other key partners involved in the development of the guidelines and the introduction of services for drug users include the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare and Muhimbili University of Health and Allied Sciences.
So far, the United States has been a global leader in combating HIV/AIDS worldwide through PEPFAR – a 10-year, US$48 billion programme.
Since its inception in 2003, the US has provided over US$817 million to combat HIV/AIDS throughout Tanzania.
''In 2010, we expect to provide an additional US$300 million to Tanzania to fight this deadly disease,'' said Goosby.

17 may 2010 13:30:00

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