PAMOJA Demands Better HIV Care After Teen Death in Tanzania

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PAMOJA, the Austrian HIV-AIDS watchdog organization issued a press release regarding the death of 17-year-old Veneranda Sanga in the Makete District of Tanzania.

PAMOJA and its international partners demand better HIV care after the teenager’s death. The Vienna-based NGO and its international partners supports the African actions against graft and corruption, on the state of care of persons living with HIV-AIDS in Makete District:

The death of Veneranda Sanga, 17, on February 28, 2009, is the latest and in some ways the most tragic death of members of the HIV-AIDS patient activist group PIUMA in Makete District, Tanzania.

“Denying people who live with HIV/AIDS the best available, state-of-the-art HIV/AIDS treatment and care is equivalent to actively killing them!” says Dr. Rainer Brandl, a physician from Austria who was director of the AIDS clinic at the Lutheran Hospital that was forced to stop working in 2006. “Very few people anywhere in the world will die of HIV-AIDS if they are diagnosed in time and given basic, proper treatment that includes not only Antiretroviral Drugs (ARVs) but also good Tuberculosis Care. The life-saving effect of existing antiretroviral drugs is well known, especially when it is coupled with high quality cd4 counting. All of this was available at Bulongwa Lutheran Hospital in 2005 when Veneranda and others began receiving treatment. These services were brought down by criminal behaviour by clergy and church employees whose only concern is money.”

Almost 20 percent of the members of PIUMA, 46 men and women, have died in Tanzania since the HIV Care and Treatment Program at Bulongwa Lutheran Hospital was forcibly closed by hospital authorities in April 2006. Many of these deaths are due to what PAMOJA calls “the appallingly inadequate treatment available to them in their home district.”

Bulongwa Lutheran Hospital was co-funded by the Austrian government and co-managed by PIUMA.

“Veneranda’s life with AIDS and her untimely death underscore a number of serious failures in the care that is provided by local hospitals and health care workers under the umbrella of the Lutheran Church of Tanzania which is member of the Lutheran World Federation,” Dr. Brandl said.

Pamoja and the Canadian Friends of Highlands Hope joined together to condemning the failure of Tanzanian local, regional and national health authorities, because they have been unable to provide even minimally effective care for their citizens who live with HIV-AIDS in the Bulongwa area of Makete District.

Veneranda Sanga initially tested HIV positive in 2005, when she was four years old, a child victim of the HIV pandemic sweeping Africa. Her initial test was carried out at the EAWM-financed Care and Treatment Centre in Bulongwa Lutheran Hospital.

The Care and Treatment Centre started her ARV treatment and PAMOJA says “her condition was monitored using technologies that allowed for proper assessment of a critical indicator of health status – the patient’s cd4 count – for children and adolescents with HIV.”

Two years later, in 2006, PAMOJA says corrupt local church officials forcibly closed the care program assisted by armed guards. Those corrupt local church officials were intent on stealing health care money provided by international donors and government grants.

Immediately after the care program was forcibly closed, the quality of care available to Veneranda and other members of PIUMA fell sharply. The mortality rate of PIUMA members thereafter spiked to an internationally unprecedented high level.

PAMOJA says the Bulongwa Lutheran Hospital is infamous for its poor conditions and inadequate staffing and treatment resources. PAMOJA accuses hospital managers of extensive theft of hospital resources. The national government of Tanzania also caused serious problems by regulating the use of cd4 counters from a single American supplier. Their cd4 counter is incapable of assessing the immune status of children. Independent reviews of the Tanzanian Ministry of Health decision revealed inadequate scientific procedures. They also suggested that money changed hands to buy that outcome.

The dead teenager’s situation was made worse in the weeks before her death, because, as an orphan, she was under the care of a Lutheran-sponsored orphanage in Bulongwa. As her medical condition worsened over several weeks, the orphanage did nothing, until they responded to the insistence of PIUMA, which also paid her expenses. By then, it was too late, and she died a few days after being sent to Ikonda Consolata Hospital, which provides high quality care.

“The story of the cd4 counters is a national disgrace,” says Jackson Mbogela, former coordinator of PIUMA who is currently pursuing graduate studies in the Netherlands. “PIUMA members on ARVs have gone months and months without proper testing, and the rate of regular cd4 testing has fallen by more than half compared to levels in 2005. Many patients have not been tested until their immune systems are already severely damaged. The BD cd4 counter at BLH is reported to be broken most of the time and could never assess children with HIV even when working. According to a recent study, infrequent or late cd4 counts shorten life and increase mortality among PLWHAs.”

PAMOJA and Canadian Friends of Highlands Hope demand that local and national health authorities intervene immediately in the Bulongwa region of Makete District to address the shockingly bad state of care and treatment of PLWHAs there. No one should die from HIV because of incompetence, corruption, and bureaucratic lethargy, as Veneranda and more than forty other PIUMA members did. – PAMOJA press release.

PAMOJA Logo.
PAMOJA Logo.

For more information, contact:
Fabian Wirnsperger
Chair, Pamoja, Vienna, Austria
E-Mail: [email protected]
Cell: +43 650 5338827

Jackson Mbogela, Netherlands
Member, PIUMA Advisory Committee
E-mail: [email protected]
Skype: Jackson.mbogela
Cell: +31 633 684 836

Dr. Rainer Brandl, MD, Mahidol University, Bangkok, Thailand
Member, PIUMA Advisory Committee
E-mail: [email protected]
Skype: rainerbrandl
Cell: +66 89 5191423

Mr. Royal Orr
Chair, Canadian Friends of Highlands Hope, Montreal, Canada
[email protected]
Cell: +1 819 432 0420

Alan Gray is the Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of NewsBlaze Daily News and other online newspapers. He prefers to edit, rather than write, but sometimes an issue rears it’s head and makes him start pounding the keyboard. Alan has a fascination with making video and video editing, so watch out if he points his Canon 7d in your direction.