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KAMPALA, May 30 (Xinhua) -- Uganda will ensure that everyone in the country has equitable access to HIV/AIDS prevention, treatment and care after the president signed an anti-homosexuality bill into law, Minister of Health Ruth Aceng said.

Aceng made the comment late on Monday following concerns by global organizations that the new law may have negatively impact on access to HIV/AIDS services.

"Uganda will ensure that prevention programs for HIV Epidemic control remain accessible to those that need them in a non discriminatory manner observing principles of confidentiality and equity," Aceng tweeted.

"Our previous efforts brought down new HIV infections from 100,000 in 2015 to 17,000 in 2022. Similarly HIV prevalence has declined from 18 percent to 5.5 percent now," the minister said, noting that with 1.3 million people on treatment out of the estimated 1.43 million people living with HIV, the country is on course to HIV epidemic control.

Aceng said despite concerns by the global organizations, Uganda remains committed to ending AIDS as a public health challenge by 2030.

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni has signed the contentious anti-homosexuality bill into law, the Speaker of Parliament said here Monday.

Museveni assented to the bill that imposes death and life-imprisonment sentences for certain same-sex acts, up to 20 years in jail for promotion and funding of same-sex activities and according to it, a suspect convicted of attempted aggravated homosexuality faces 14 years in prison. - Xinhua


DAR ES SALAAM, May 27 (Xinhua) -- Tanzanian health authorities said on Friday plans were underway to install sanitary pads vending machines in all public schools to allow girl students to have uninterrupted education.

The Minister for Health Ummy Mwalimu said girls in public schools lost between 30 and 40 days of study annually for lack of access to sanitary pads.

"The vending machines will enable girl students to access the sanitary pads whenever they needed them at 200 Tanzanian shillings," said Mwalimu when she launched the sanitary pads vending machine at Bunge secondary school in the capital Dodoma ahead of the Menstrual Hygiene Day that takes place on May 28 every year.

Mwalimu commended Lulu Ameir, founder and chief executive officer of Bela Vendor, for innovating the sanitary pads vending machines, saying the machines will provide huge relief to girls in schools.

"Safe menstruation for girls in schools is very important for their academic growth," she said, pledging that the government will take necessary steps to ensure that girl students were not interrupted for missing sanitary pads.

Lulu said surveys showed that the lack of access to sanitary pads by girls in schools contributed to their poor performance in their studies.

Menstrual Hygiene Day, an annual event at a global level, highlights the importance of menstrual care and raises awareness about the issues faced by those who do not have access to sanitary products. It was initiated by the German-based NGO WASH United in 2013 and observed for the first time in 2014.

The theme of Menstrual Hygiene Day 2023 is "Making menstruation a normal fact of life by 2030". - Xinhua


Manyara- The 2023 Africa Vaccination Week was dubbed “The Big Catch Up” as a clarion call to bridge the gap of the rollout of routine immunization for children due to the staggering statistics which revealed that essential immunization levels decreased in over 100 countries, leading to rising outbreaks of measles, diphtheria, polio, and yellow fever.

This decline was linked to the COVID-19 pandemic-associated lockdowns and widespread fear of contracting the virus at health facilities. Tanzania, although not extreme also had its fair share of this impact.

According to a report from WHO and UNICEF, in Tanzania, the number of unvaccinated children increased in 2020 and 2021. From a steady decrease from over one million in 2014 to about two hundred thousand in 2019, unvaccinated children increased to 357,534 in 2020 and further to 517,570 in 2021.

The Big Catch Up

Vaccination is one of the most cost-effective ways to ensure long and healthy lives. Every year, vaccines save 2-3 million lives globally, and millions more are protected from disease and disability. Although routine immunization shows some declining, there have also been bright spots of resilience from Tanzania to get back on track.

“The story of Tanzania is one that we are proud of. Unlike other countries, routine immunization has particularly been rolled out, except for two antigens which we have been working tirelessly on through outreaches and campaigns. Thankfully, many hospitals have been able to give vaccination, Mr. Mleli David, District Immunization and Vaccine Officer in Babati narrated.

A bit down the memory lane, Tanzania remains one of few countries in Africa where no form of public restrictions including lockdown was implemented. As a matter of fact, most people perceived risk of COVID-19 infection was low.

That notwithstanding, the Government in August 2021, intensified its outreaches and public health education especially in health facilities and hospitals because people now attended willingly unlike other countries. Through the support of WHO and partners, the various precautionary measures were established in most public avenues including wearing of nose masks, washing hands, and keeping social distances.

Meanwhile, even though, the routine vaccination was progressing successfully, COVID-19 vaccinations were the most dreaded. The vaccination was introduced in Tanzania in July 2021 following national and international advocacy, public education, and communication on the importance of vaccination against COVID-19. 

Barely, one year after the official launch of COVID-19 campaign in Tanzania, less than 8% of the total population were fully vaccinated as of June 2022.

According to Mr. Mleli David, “… We had a growing concern on how to get mothers to vaccinate against COVID-19 while they brought their children to receive essential vaccinations. This led to the introduction of COVID-19 vaccine integration into the usual routine vaccination, one of the Government’s strategies they adopted to expand the COVID-19 vaccinations to reach more people”.

National and Local Campaigns

As COVID-19 vaccine delivery enters a phase of integration with routine services, Tanzania emerged the best performing among 34 African countries for concerted support by the COVID-19 Vaccine Delivery Partnership. From a poor coverage of 2.8% of the total population by mid-January 2022, Tanzania recorded an exponential increase to 49% by the end of January 2023.

A community leader noted, “One thing about the community is that leadership is one thing they trust, so as soon as the President was telecasted taking the COVID-19 vaccination, the minds of the citizens begun to change”.

As a strong testament of the country’s support and enthusiasm to integrate vaccinations, the Africa Vaccination week which is globally celebrated was commemorated in Manyara, one of the communities that experience huge success in both routine and COVID-19 vaccination with thanks to WHO and financial support from Canada.

More intriguing than ever, this launch was localized in the community particularly in Ayalagala health facilities where they vaccinated up to 200 on each of the three days set for vaccination on routine days.

The District Immunization Officer at Babati said “the national launch sparked massive awareness. In smaller communities like this, we send messages by word of mouth through community and opinion leaders who can identify inhabitants who have not been vaccinated and encourage them to take the vaccines.”

Winning more souls

Undeniably, the commitment of government, partners and support from the World Health Organization ensured stronger primary health care services for essential vaccination.

Patric Boay, 34, community Mobiliser, underscored, how difficult reaching some communities was in the early days “Thanks to trainings from WHO for health workers, mobilizers, and nurses, we have been able to address most of the challenges and getting community members to vaccinate. Some persons lived very far, but with the financial support of WHO and partners we are reaching these communities with the information, and they are getting vaccinated”.

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Rachael Molel, an inhabitant of the Babati community brought her daughter to be vaccinated. She recounted: “When I was young, my siblings and I were affected with measles. We went through so much pain till we finally got better. I don’t want my child to go through that same pain, so I would encourage more people to get both routine vaccination for the children and the COVID-19 vaccination”.

In as much as this progress are worthy of noting, it is not over till its over as there are still several children missing out on their routine vaccination. The ‘Big Catch-up’ is an extended effort to lift vaccination levels among children to at least pre-pandemic levels and endeavor to exceed it.

This immunization week campaign illustrates the country’s commitment to the attainment of longer and healthier lives as part of achieving the sustainable development goals. WHO is advocating for concerted efforts and partnerships to bridge the gap in districts and communities that are lagging as well as elevate the COVID-19 integration in order to leave no one behind. - World Health Organization

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