PIUMA Marches Forward

About 80 members of PIUMA, the self-supporting community group for people living with HIV-AIDS in Makete District, met on May 19, 2006, to discuss plans for the future.

The past several weeks have been difficult ones, with tension over management of the HIV Care and Treatment Centre (CTC) in Bulongwa. In mid-April, the clinic was temporarily closed by the leadership of the Bulongwa Lutheran Hospital as part of an ongoing conflict over alleged misuse of health care funds by previous hospital administrators. The CTC has re-opened with only partial services thanks to interim medical support from MSF (Makete).

?People were very upset and concerned about what has happened,?? says Jackson Mbogela, assistant director of the Bulongwa CTC and a key organizer with PIUMA, ?but when they heard of our intention to fight for our right to adequate treatment in the courts and of our Austrian partners? commitment to stand with us, they decided we must push ahead.??

EAWM, the Vienna-based Lutheran development agency that established the CTC in Bulongwa, has joined the fight for greater accountability from local church and hospital authorities. It has pledged to remain engaged with PIUMA and is continuing to support the staff and programming at the CTC.

At its meeting yesterday, PIUMA members voted to proceed with the second phase of construction of their new community centre in Bulongwa. The foundations have already been completed and now the brickwork will begin for the small office, meeting space and restaurant that are planned.

PIUMA is also continuing its negotiations with local authorities and with applications to the Ministry of Health for permission to establish its own HIV clinic. This will be the first CTC in Tanzania that is owned and managed by persons living with HIV-AIDS.

May 20, 2006.