Agreement Leads to Free HIV Tests, Treatment in Tanzania

Good Samaritan Foundation Works With Gilead Sciences

Rome, (Zenit.org) | 576 hits

A Cooperation Agreement between the Good Samaritan Foundation and Gilead Sciences will allow Free HIV/AIDS Tests and Antiretroviral Treatment in the Tanzanian Diocese of Shinyanga.

The agreement will provide free access to the test for HIV and if necessary to antiretroviral therapies for about 120,000 residents of the District of Shinyanga (Mwanza, Tanzania).

The agreement was recently reached between the Good Samaritan Foundation, which is under the Pontifical Council for Health Care Workers, the local Church, and Gilead Sciences, a California-based company that unites medical-scientific research with facilitating the production in loco in economically disadvantaged countries of antiretroviral drugs and which has implemented charitable initiatives in the socio/health-care field.

The five-year project ‘Test & Treat’ produced by this agreement was officially presented in Dar es Salaam this week, in concomitance with the Twenty-Second World Day of the Sick.

This project will include, in addition to purely medical aspects, the moral and hygiene/health-care training of the people who will benefit from this initiative and, where necessary, support for the weakest, starting with orphans.

At a specific level, the project includes four principle lines of action: support for those that are already working in the diocese in the treatment of HIV and the pathologies correlated with it, that is to say the Health-Care Centre of Ngokolo and the dispensaries of Bugisi, Buhangija and Mija; the development of specialist training programmes for the social and health-care personnel involved; the organisation of educational programmes for the communities of the district (including rural ones); and the strengthening of initiatives involving help at the level of alimentation for HIV-positive children.

"On the basis of the statistics relating to the spread of the HIV/AIDS pandemic in the north of Tanzania," explained the President of the Pontifical Council for Health Care Workers, Archbishop Zygmunt Zimowski, "it is estimated that about 20,000 people, of those who will have free clinical analyses at one of the four centres involved in the project, will, unfortunately, be HIV-positive. However, they will immediately be able to have access, again without any charge, to the antiretroviral drugs that they need. In the first instance this will allow them to be aware of their condition and to assure them a life expectancy of another thirty years or more, it will enable expectant women to avoid the transmission of the virus to their unborn children."

"The Test and Treat Project," Archbishop Zimowski went on, "is indeed a important result of the work engaged in by the Good Samaritan Foundation and by our Pontifical Council to promote ‘in the field’ – with practical initiatives as well – the mission of the Church in favour of Salus which Jesus himself gave as a mandate: Euntes docete et curate infirmos (Mt 10:6-8: ‘go, teach and heal the sick’).

"On this happy occasion I would like to remember with great affection Mgr. Aloysius Balina, the Bishop of Shinyanga, who died in November 2012. He strongly believed in this initiative and supported it and advocated it both in Tanzania and in Rome."

"This project, which is unique of its kind and which will be implemented in cooperation with the Good Samaritan Foundation and the Pontifical Council for Health Care Workers, will not only be useful in preventing and treating HIV infection in Shinyanga," observed Gregg Alton, Gilead’s Executive Vice President of Corporate and Medical Affairs. "The initiative could indeed constitute a point of reference for all future programmes for the diagnosis and treatment of the virus and its correlated illnesses," explained Alton, "in economically disadvantaged countries."

"We are very happy," he concluded, "to be able to work with the Good Samaritan Foundation because we know about its pioneering courage in providing care and treatment to the victims of HIV/AIDS."