EAWM says corruption and intimidation will not stop the battle against HIV-AIDS

Note: EAWM has supported HAART or AIDS treatment work in Bulongwa since 2004. EAWM is the development arm of the Austrian Lutheran Church, is based in Vienna, and is a founding partner of Highlands Hope

The Evangelical Association for World Mission in Austria (EAWM ) is pleased to report that its local partner PIUMA has retaken possession of the entire equipment of the Bulongwa HAART programme, which will again be used for the benefit of the PLWHA in Makete District.

Today, EAWM learned that after more than 5 months the blood biochemistry equipment and internet equipment was finally handed over to PIUMA by Bulongwa Lutheran Hospital. This equipment laid idle for the last several months mainly due to a lack of trained staff in the HIV clinic after the EAWM supported team had been expelled from the hospital.

EAWM and PIUMA had secured their high quality Cyflow cd4 machines from the hospital in July. Cyflo technology is running successfully at the other Highlands Hope sites (across Tanzania there are currently 18 Cyflow machines serving thousands of patients including many children). The cd4 machines had worked successfully in Bulongwa for more than a year before the hospital lockout and it is the aim of EAWM to restart their use for the benefit of the victims of HIV in Makete immediately. At present the equipment - worth about 75 Million Tanzanian Shillings - is in a secure place under the control of PIUMA.

EAWM has led negotiations that have secured the Austrian Government Development Agency as a co-donor in a new partnership with PIUMA (in the place of the Tanzanian Lutheran Church) for continuation of the successfully implemented HAART programme in Bulongwa. As reported earlier, the programme's expert staff was forcibly expelled from the Bulongwa Lutheran Hospital by church authorities last April following a disagreement about the use of donor funds.

It was also reported that the HAART-related laboratory equipment has lain idle since last April and was not used for monitoring the patients receiving ARVs or anti-retroviral drugs (specifically, the determination of the liverfunction (SGPT) which is a precondition of the National AIDS Control Programme (NACP) of Tanzania for the use of a certain ARVs was not peformed in the required way). The equipment was present in the hospital but not used.

EAWM had learned in 2005 that the Bulongwa Lutheran Hospital managment and local church authorities were responsible for the disappearance of several hundred thousand Euros in donor money over the last few years. For example, an expensive ambulance car which was donated for the use of the patients was sold far below market value and is now used by a local individual for his private business. As a result, EAWM feared that the laboratory equipment impounded illegally by the hospital authorities would have met a similar end, never again serving the patients for free, sold for the benefit of corrupt administrators.

It is the fervent wish of the donors, the local community leaders, and PIUMA to bring life saving treatment directly to the villagers in cooperation with traditional healers and community health workers. A detailed proposal to do this was sent to the Ministry of Health several weeks back. EAWM is calling for the proper use of donations to fight HIV/ADS and support for community development as a means of fighting poverty in order to bring AIDS prevalence down. At the AIDS 2006 Conference in Toronto, the fight against poverty was considered to be the backbone of any successful strategy to overcome the pandemic.

EAWM is very concerned that none of our numerous official letters or emails of concern have been answered by the the Tanzanian Minister of Health or any responsible person at the NACP or MoH. The communications went through various channels including consuls and ambassadors in Dar es Salaam who are well informed of the problematic situation.

It is difficult to work with a partner who simply refuses to communicate but we are confident that we are reaching a point where finally the people of Tanzania and the local community wil be given a chance to stop the plague of HIV-AIDS, hand in hand with partners in Europe and Canada.

September 24, 2006.