Death of another HIV+ patient in Bulongwa sparks sorrow and anger

The death of S., a young woman and mother who was under treatment as a patient at PIUMA's HIV clinic in Bulongwa before the lockout of staff and PIUMA volunteers by hospital authorities last April, has created sadness and anger among people in the area.

S. was receiving anti-retrovirals at the PIUMA clinic and was being treated for a number of AIDS-related opportunistic infections including a severe skin condition before the dispute with Bulongwa Lutheran Hospital over the hospital's mismangement of funds led to the lockout.

"We were consulting on her skin condition with medical experts by Internet when we were forced to leave the space our clinic was occupying in the hospital," explains Dr. Rainer Brandl, medical director of the PIUMA HIV Care and Treatment Clinic.

Representatives of PIUMA, the Bulongwa area organization for people living with HIV-AIDS, say that 18 similar cases have been identified since April where better care could have saved HIV patients.

"This is totally unacceptable," says Jackson Mbogela, director of the PIUMA clinic. "We have brought these deaths to the attention of the National AIDS Control Programme in Dar es Salaam and we have put forward a comprehensive proposal for PIUMA to restart its excellent services with our staff, technology, and volunteers."

The PIUMA team had been caring for more than 600 patients before the lockout, with financial support from the Austrian development organization EAWM and in partnership with Partec, a German supplier of the most advanced blood analysis techinology.

"We are particularly concerned about our pediatric AIDS cases," says Jackson Mbogela, noting that the CD4 technology in place currently at the Bulongwa Lutheran Hospital cannot test pedicatric samples. "We have the support of village leaders and other political authorities to re-establish the PIUMA clinic, but it is tragic that S. and others may have died as a result of this situation."

Jackson Mbogela also notes that S. became visibly ill with AIDS long before PIUMA arrived on the scene and so she lived with a great deal of stigma and discrimination. "May God grant her soul peace," he says.

PIUMA, whose name means "test and live in hope", is active on a range of issues, fighting for justice and for dignity for people living with HIV-AIDS. PIUMA members are proud Tanzanians; their work is deeply rooted in their country's traditions of equality and community-based democracy.

August 5, 2006.