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Zim National HIV/Aids Conference report out
Beatrice Tonhodzayi, The Herald
May 05, 2005

THE Zimbabwe National HIV/Aids Conference report was on Tuesday released to the public, just short of a year after the countryís first ever HIV/Aids conference.

The conference, which was attended by more than 600 delegates from governments, business and civic groups across Southern Africa as well as from around the world, took place between June 15 and 18 last year.

Key among recommendations in the report, which was distributed to journalists from different media houses at a workshop organised by the National Aids Council (NAC), were issues of prevention, care and treatment, workplace programmes and economic, legal and institutional support.

The objective of the workshop, according to Mr Tendai Chidzenga of NAC, was to disseminate the report of the conference to journalists and agree on the role the media can play in pushing the recommendations forward.

Under care and treatment for instance, the World Health Organisationís goal is to treat 3 million people by 2005.

However, despite concerted efforts by the Government, it still has only 6 500 people on Anti-Retroviral Treatment (ART).

While several others are sponsoring their own treatment and many others are on company treatment programmes, the numbers still fall short of the intended targets.

It was, therefore, one of the reportís recommendations that workplaces adopted programmes that looked after the welfare of their employees and facilitated easy access to treatment in the event of it being needed.

Couples, the report recommended, should not be separated because of working demands while there was need for companies to put in place better retirement care packages

This was because employees, who contributed to the national Aids levy and medical aid sometimes found themselves destitute after leaving work.

It was also recommended that effective strategies involving the informal sector be implemented since the informal sector was increasingly becoming a major employer in the country.

Delegates to the conference, said they were concerned that with the scaling up of ART, suppliers might run out of drugs.

They also raised the issue of ART affordability and called on the Government to take appropriate measures to ensure that raw materials for the production of Anti-Retrovirals (ARVs) were exempted from import duty.

The Government was also challenged to ensure the availability of foreign currency for the procurement of these supplies.

Delegates to the conference noted that the orphans and vulnerable children referral system was not clear and was uncoordinated.

Various line ministries, including the Ministry of Education, Sport and Culture, Youth, Gender and Employment Creation and Health and Child Welfare dealt with orphans and vulnerable children.

Each ministry, however, had different rules for the children they assisted resulting in confusion.

Some of the issues raised after the conference have already been looked into with the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe already allocating foreign currency for the purchase of drugs since January.

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