The subject of the hearing was the PharmAccess program with the Security Forces, in particular Tanzania Prisons. The committee had recently visited several prison and police facilities throughout the country and heard repeatedly good reports on PharmAccess’ engagement in this program. Earlier this year, Program Director Geert Haverkamp met and briefed the Chair of this Committee Ms Lediana Mung’ong’o at a recent prison meeting. The Parliamentary Committee is a powerful party-independent and highly respected institution in Tanzania. They advise the parliament and can facilitate policy changes at the highest level.
The meeting was attended by a large number of parliament members as well as members from the National Executive Committee (of the ruling party CCM), all associated with the Social Services Commission, some of them also representing other Parliamentary Committees. PharmAccess was represented by the Program Manager Maligo Katebalila, the Program Director Geert Haverkamp, and the Country Director, Jan van den Hombergh. Tanzania Prisons was represented by Director Medical Services and his team and USAID delegated the Sr. Project Management Specialist HIV. The program with the uniformed forces is funded by USAID.
After introductions Geert Haverkamp gave an overview of the history and current status of the PharmAccess programs with the uniformed forces followed by a round of questions from the parliamentarians. The range of questions was wide and all could be addressed adequately. Some prevailing misconceptions could be dispelled, for example that HIV testing and other medical tests are not mandatory, that 80% of the clients in the health facilities are civilians and that specific HIV prevalence data among members and staff of the forces as well as among prisoners are not known by PharmAccess as all data are treated in an aggregate way and as such represent population data. The Commission made a plea to extend this program for the years to come.
After this meeting, the Commission visited the Main Prison in Dar es Salaam, Ukonga, and the adjacent prison health facility with its integrated HIV and TB management, established with support of PharmAccess. During this visit, among others the Peer Education by prisoners, the tuberculosis screening with digital X-ray, and the HIV care & treatment facilities were seen in action.