PIUMA approved to restart voluntary counselling and testing (VCT)

The HIV+ patient activist group PIUMA has announced that the District Medical Officer of Makete has given his approval for the group to restart voluntary counselling and HIV testing services (VCT) immediately. This marks a critical step forward for the organization and for its insistence that people living with HIV-AIDS (PLWHA) be involved in the management and delivery of HIV-related services.

"It has taken many, many months to get here," says Wema Sanga, General Secretary of PIUMA. "We want to thank all our members, our community supporters, and our partners in Tanzania and around the world for their efforts on our behalf."

PIUMA had demonstrated its ability to extend testing to large numbers of residents of Makete by involving patients in all aspects of HIV awareness, testing, and service provision and by taking its service to local villages before its work was brought to a halt in April 2006 because of a dispute over accountability for health care funds in the district.

Now PIUMA will redouble its efforts to bring services to the people in effective and sustainable ways through its new clinic space and organizational centre in Bulongwa. Planning is already underway for a series of village-based VCTs in early July. PIUMA is grateful for support in these efforts from the pan-African NGO AMREF and from action medeor.

The District Medical Officer has also provided PIUMA's health care worker, Mary Musoma, with drugs for opportunistic infections among PIUMA members and other people with HIV-AIDS. This is a further confirmation of confidence in PIUMA's ability to provide care.

Recognition of the importance of PIUMA was also underlined by the appointment last week of Jackson Mbogela, Coordinator of PIUMA, to represent all NGOs in Makete on the Makete District Council Commitee for HIV, the coordinating body for all anti-HIV efforts in the district.

"PIUMA will now have access to legal agreements and reports and that will help us make people more answerable," says Mbogela. "For PIUMA, our most important contribution will be to see that resources are put where they are most needed and utilised in an appropriate way."