A partnership struck by the Good Samaritan Foundation and U.S.-based Gilead Sciences will provide free HIV and AIDS testing in the diocese of Shinyanga, Tanzania.
“'The Test and Treat Project' is indeed an important result of the work engaged in by the Good Samaritan Foundation and by our Pontifical Council,” stated Archbishop Zygmunt Zimowski in a press release. He presides over the Pontifical Council for Health Care Workers. It fulfills “the mission of the Church…which Jesus himself gave as a mandate: Euntes docete et curate infirmos,” or “go, teach and heal the sick,” he said, quoting the Gospel of Matthew.
The Pontifical Council for Health Care Workers oversees the Samaritan Foundation, an organization dedicated to training nurses.
Gilead, a biopharmaceutical company based in California, seeks to discover, develop and commercialize innovative medicines in areas where there is unresolved medical needs. The partnership with Good Samaritan will provide free HIV testing and antiretroviral therapies for 120,000 residents of the District of Shinyanga (Mwanza, Tanzania).
The 5-year project has been dubbed “Test & Treat” and was announced on the 22nd annual observance of the World Day of the Sick. Besides the research aspects, moral and professional health training will be provided, as well as aid to the weakest members of society, especially orphans.
The project contemplates four steps: the first is to offer support to those who are already treating HIV-positive patients living in Shinyanga.
Next in the plan is the development of specialized training programs for the personnel involved, organization of education for district communities, and provide other help “at the level of alimentation for HIV-positive children.”
“On the basis of the statistics relating to the spread of the HIV/AIDS pandemic in the north of Tanzania, it is estimated that about 20,000 people of those who will have free clinical analyses…will, unfortunately, be HIV-positive,” said Archbishop Zimowski. “However, they will immediately be able to have access, again without any charge, to the antiretroviral drugs that they need.”
With regard to patients who are found to be HIV-positive, the archbishop said that first they will be made “aware of their condition,” and assured of “a life expectancy of another thirty years or more.” The program will also “enable expectant women to avoid the transmission of the virus to their unborn children,” he noted.
Gilead’ executive vice president Gregg Alton, who oversees corporate and medical affairs, was quoted as saying that the initiative could become “a point of reference for all future programs for the diagnosis and treatment of the virus and its correlated illnesses in economically disadvantaged countries.”
“We are very happy to be able to work with the Good Samaritan Foundation,” Alton said, “because we know about its pioneering courage in providing care and treatment to the victims of HIV/AIDS.”