Back to Index
Teachers urge free ARVs as AIDS thins their ranks
October 14, 2005
BULAWAYO - Teachers
in Zimbabwe have urged the government to provide free AIDS treatment after
a survey revealed the profession was struggling with the highest infection
rates in the country.
According to a report by the Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (PTUZ),
the country lost 566 teachers to AIDS-related illnesses last year. In
the first six months of 2005, the death toll had already hit 362.
"We have lost more than 1,000 teachers across the country in the last
18 months. Many more are infected or affected and are suffering in silence.
It is estimated that 25 percent of teachers are living with AIDS. The
majority of schools in Zimbabwe have lost at least one teacher to the
disease and at least two to three teachers are on AIDS-related sick leave,"
said the report.
What has made life for educators living with the virus all the more difficult
is the overall cost of antiretroviral therapy (ART), and the limited access
to government-subsidised drugs.
The government's ART programme costs each patient around US $2 a month.
Although that is a huge saving compared with an average $50 a month for
private treatment, there are still many extra costs such as laboratory
exams, the price of drugs for opportunistic diseases, and more basic outlays
such as transport fees and proper nutrition.
The state-run treatment programme is available at only two sites: the
main public hospital in the capital, Harare, and in the second city, Bulawayo.
Teachers working in the provinces have no access to treatment.
Teachers are among the lowest paid workers in Zimbabwe, battling to make
ends meet in an economy haunted by a 360 percent inflation rate and shortages
of basic household items. A junior teacher earns US $80, the most senior
pockets US $160, while the cost of a monthly consumer basket is estimated
at US $396.
"The increasing levels of poverty among teachers have contributed to the
high level of attrition. It is unfortunate that whilst teachers are the
engine room for social behavioural change, the National AIDS Council (NAC)
and the ministry of education continue to sideline us in the battle against
HIV/AIDS," said the PTUZ report.
The Zimbabwe Teachers Association (Zimta) has echoed those concerns, stressing
that it was disturbed by the absence of government-initiated AIDS programmes
specifically targeting teachers.
"We are equally worried about the continuous death of educators due to
AIDS, and it's high time the government took a bold step towards addressing
this. The least it can do is to afford us heavily subsidised ARVs, or
just free drugs - that would help," ZIMTA secretary-general Dennis Sinyolo
Education Minister Aeneas Chigwedere said his ministry was doing its best
to help teachers, but warned that, like all other Zimbabweans, it was
the responsibility of educators to protect themselves against infection.
Zimbabwe, which has an adult HIV rate of around 20 percent, declared an
AIDS state of emergency in 2002, allowing the purchase and local manufacture
of cheaper generic drugs. However, foreign exchange shortages have limited
the importation of raw materials, dealing a blow to the programme.
According to government figures, about 5,000 people die of AIDS-related
illnesses each week.
Please credit www.kubatana.net if you make use of material from this website.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License unless stated otherwise.