Tanzania to allow HIV self-testing from the age of 15
The Tanzanian parliament on Tuesday passed amendments designed to allow HIV/AIDS self-testing and lowering the age of HIV testing without parental consent to 15 years.
"These amendments will significantly accelerate our intentions to meet the 90-90-90 goals which aim at ending the AIDS epidemic by 2020," Ummy Mwalimu, Minister for Health, told the House in the capital Dodoma.
The 90-90-90 is an ambitious treatment target to help end the AIDS epidemic. It states that by 2020, 90 percent of all people living with HIV will know their HIV status, 90 percent of all people with diagnosed HIV infection will receive sustained antiretroviral therapy and 90 percent of all people receiving antiretroviral therapy will have viral suppression.
Mwalimu was speaking after Members of Parliament had passed the amendments of the HIV/AIDS Prevention and Control Act, 2019 tabled in parliament under the Written Laws Miscellaneous Amendment Bill 2019.
The new law will allow 15-year-old children to undergo HIV/AIDS self testing, but insists the process should be voluntary. It also requires a person assisting another one to undertake HIV self-testing to comply with principles of confidentiality. Mwalimu said amendments of the law were part of strategies to encourage more Tanzanians to go for HIV/AIDS testing as well as achieve the 90-90-90 targets by 2030.
She said the 2015/2016 Tanzania Demographic Health Survey indicated that HIV/AIDS infections among children between 0 and 14 years were 0.4 percent, adding that most of them were infected by their mothers. Statistics from Health Ministry show that new infections on youth aged 15 to 19 are high, about 65,000 yearly and out of them 80 percent are girls and only 20 percent are boys.
Tanzania has 1.4 million people affected by HIV and the government wants 90-percent of the country's population to know their status, whereas currently it is only 62 percent who know their status.
It is estimated that over 3,000 patients died in sub-Saharan Africa on a daily basis due to HIV in 2015. Ten countries in Africa carry 80 percent of the total HIV burden.
They are South Africa, Kenya, Malawi, Ethiopia, Mozambique, Tanzania, Nigeria, Uganda, Zimbabwe and Zambia.