The Prime Minister, Honorable Majaliwa Kassim Majaliwa today launched the Methadone Clinic at the Mbeya Zonal Referral Hospital (MZRH) in the Southern Highlands.
Launching the clinic and services for People Who Inject Drugs (PWIDs) in Mbeya, the Prime Minister commended the Mbeya Zonal Referral Hospital for launching the methadone dispensing services for heroin users in the region.
“This is the fifth methadone clinic in the country; it is encouraging to see that the Mbeya Zonal Hospital will now, offer services to our youth who are injecting opioid drugs. Providing Opioid Substitution Therapy (OST) or Medically Assisted Treatment (MAT) is one of the HIV prevention strategies the government is working on, through the Ministry of Health in its attempts to reduce the risk factors for HIV/AIDS,” said Honorable Majaliwa.
The newly- opened methadone clinic is a gift to the people of the United Republic of Tanzania from the American People and is financially supported by the US Department of Defense-Walter Reed Program (WRP)/President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), with technical assistance from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) ..
The clinic offers Medically Assisted Treatment (MAT) for heroin injectors in Mbeya and the Southern Highlands zone in general; it is expected to serve up to 600 clients in the first 12 months of operation. . The MAT clinic will dispense methadone as an alternative to opiate use for the heroin injectors and will also offer HIV counselling, testing and care and treatment; TB clinic services; cervical cancer screening services, STI diagnosis and treatment, and substance abuse counseling and psychosocial support.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), approximately. In Tanzania, people injecting drugs are approximately 30,000 with a high HIV prevalence of 36%, according to the National Aids Control Program (NACP) national consensus report in 2014. A simple mapping done in November 2014 by the Regional Medical Officer’s Office of Mbeya and estimated the number of People Who Inject Drugs in six districts of Mbeya region, namely Kyela, Mbozi, Mbalali ,Chunya,Mbeya City and Mbeya District Council to be 450 (137 PWIDs).
Speaking during the launch in Mbeya, Dr. David Elkins, the Executive Director for Global Health Program Tanzania – Henry Jackson Foundation Medical Research International (HJFMRI ) funded by DOD/ Walter Reed Program said “We are happy to be part of this new initiative that will dispense methadone to PWIDs and help reduce the HIV prevalence and transmission in the Southern highland regions, of Tanzania. We all know the challenge of maintaining safe practices among injecting drug users, hence their vulnerability and increased HIV risk. Medically-assisted treatment through the prescription of methadone to injecting drug users is an effective initiative in the prevention of HIV, as it reduces the opiate use among the heroin users and the associated high-risk behavior of sharing needles.”
The Mbeya Zonal Referral Hospital Methadone Clinic which was refurbished by the Mbeya Zonal referral Hospital has the capacity of serving 1500 clients a day also has a plan to renovate its rehabilitation center situated in the outskirt of Uyole Township in Mbeya to accommodate the expected high number of clients in the region. On behalf of the US government, President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief ( PEPFAR)also contributed 180 million Tanzania shillings in support of renovations and the training of clinical staff. HJFMRI will also provide continuous technical support to the clinic.
Opioid Substitution Therapy clinics offering medically assisted treatment for heroin injectors have grown from one clinic in Dar es Salaam in 2011 to five clinics now. The MAT clinics in Tanzania has 4276 clients who are on MAT services (1530 clients at Muhimbili National Hospital, 990 clients at Temeke Referral Hospital , 1506 clients at Mwananyamala Referral Hospital and , 250 clients at Mnazi Mmoja Hospital Zanzibar).
“The new clinic wouldn’t have been possible without the support from our Partners - we would like to thank HJFMRI, PEPFAR and of course the Ministry of Health Community Development, Gender, Elderly and Children for their support in completion of the clinic” said Dr. Mbwanji, Mbeya Zonal Referral Hospital Director.
“By working closely with the Tanzania Ministry of Health, HJFMRI will continue to bring HIV care and treatment services closer to the communities of Mbeya, Songwe, Rukwa, Katavi and Ruvuma. We believe that with this collaboration and support from Walter Reed Program/PEPFAR, Tanzania will reach HIV suppression by 2030.” added Dr. Elkins.
Emphasizing the importance of a drug – free generation, the Prime Minister called on the youth to avoid the use of drugs and use the opportunity to access treatment provided at the methadone clinic. He applauded Walter Reed Program and the efforts of the Mbeya Zonal Referral hospital in providing a one stop clinic to provide harm reduction and combat the HIV epidemic within the country.
About WRP / HJFMRI Tanzania
The Henry M. Jackson Foundation for the Advancement of Military Medicine, Inc. (HJF) is a global not for profit organization with headquarters in Bethesda, Maryland, USA and has been actively involved in HIV and AIDS programming for over 30 years. The U.S. Military HIV Research Program (MHRP) at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research is the single largest program supported by HJF and covers a multitude of active research protocols and PEPFAR activities. Together, the HJF and MHRP form a strong partnership to develop and conduct robust international HIV programs in Thailand, Tanzania, Uganda, Kenya and Nigeria. MHRP has worked closely with domestic and international research organizations such as the NIMR-Mbeya Medical Research Centre and the German based Ludwig Maximilian University (LMU) to target at risk populations in Mbeya for the past 12 years.
The Henry M. Jackson Foundation Medical Research International Inc. (HJFMRI,) is a subsidiary of HJF and implements PEPFAR funded HIV prevention, care and treatment activities in the Southern Highlands as the Walter Reed Program Tanzania (WRP-T), providing resources, personnel and services to the zone.
Program activities have been ongoing since 2004 and are conducted in close collaboration with the Tanzania Ministry of Health, Community Development, Gender, Elderly and Children. HJFMRI receives technical assistance through MHRP and administrative and operational support through HJF in the US.
For any further queries and clarifications, please contact, the WRP communications officer through email: firstname.lastname@example.org; or through telephone: +255 252 500052; +255 767 210 862