Health

Shortage of HIV test kits contained

THE government has contained the shortage of HIV rapid testing kits that faced public health facilities throughout the country in the past three months.

The Isles Health Minister, Nassor Ahmed Mazrui, said that the kits have been already distributed in health facilities across the country and that the shortage is now under control.

Mazrui said the reason behind the shortage of HIV test kits was attributed to the delay in importing medical supplies.

 “The kits had already arrived and distributed in the hospitals and health centres from Monday,” he said.

Earlier, service providers in health facilities said there was a severe shortage of HIV testing kits, leaving the country with incomplete data as new cases could be going unreported.

As a result, some voluntary counseling and testing centres had to turn people away due to the shortage of the HIV testing kits.

Some of the health facilities that had reported the shortage from June, 2023 are Mwera, Fuoni, Magirisi, Tunguu SUZA and Tunguu in Unguja.

Sultan Shela, a physician at the Fuoni health centre said that the shortage of testing kits had jeopardised data collection on new infection thus derailing the gains made in the sector.

He said the centre which serves more than 70,000 people was not been in position to record new cases for the past three months, expect for pregnant women.

 “We have had to prioritize and use the kits available for testing expectant mothers, because this is very crucial,” he added.

The national prevalence of the HIV in the Islands is one percent, according to the latest available figures from the Zanzibar Aids Commission.

Usually an HIV test is conducted in series and if one of the kits is not available, the test has to be suspended to avoid inaccuracies. 

The shortage was also persisted at the Magirisi health center, where a nurse at the Youth Friendly Services (YFS), Ashura Hilal, said the shortage has led to the number of youth using the services provided at the centre to decrease.

“Many young people use the centers to test for HIV, but for a while now we have an acute shortage of kits, so many have stayed away,” she said.

The YFS are meant to provide youth with equitable, effective, accessible, acceptable, and appropriate health services, since youth have developmental needs that may not be met by standard health services.

However, the Zanzibar Mail learned that condoms are easily accessed in hospitals and other health facilities.

 “Condoms are widely available in our centers and we provide them to those who are in need and before distributing them, we provide education on how to use them,” said a youth peer educator at Tunguu SUZA.

The Mail observed that the condoms are easily accessed from the clinics and from within the hostels and they were given freely.

 “It is very frustrating when you go to the centre to get tested, you are asked to return sometimes later because there are no tests kits,” said Khamis Ali.

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