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Global Challenges: Zimbabwean Governmental policies present obstacles to treatment for HIV-Positive residents
November 09, 2005

Surging inflation, a lack of foreign currency to purchase medications and an urban renewal program that has displaced poor residents are preventing HIV-positive Zimbabweans from seeking and receiving care, the
Chicago Tribune reports. According to U.N. statistics, more than one-fourth of Zimbabwe's 12.7 million citizens are HIV-positive and up to 3,000 people are infected each week. In the last three months, the cost of a month's supply of generic antiretroviral drugs has increased from $7.70 to $17 or more because of "hyperinflation," according to a U.N. report.

The average laborer in Zimbabwe earns about $20 a month. The Zimbabwean Ministry of Health provides subsidized drugs to some HIV/AIDS patients, but funding often is "woefully inadequate," and a national program announced last month to provide medications has a budget of less than $2 million, the Tribune reports. Varichem Pharmaceuticals, which manufactures generic antiretrovirals in the country, announced last month that it no longer will produce the drugs because it lacks U.S. currency to pay for raw materials.

Foreign aid to the country has decreased largely because Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe "distrusts" outside groups, the Tribune reports. In Zambia, HIV-positive patients each receive an average of $184 annually in foreign aid assistance, compared with an average of $4 per patient in Zimbabwe. In addition, Mugabe's urban evictions campaign -- called "Operation Murambatsvina," which means "drive out the filth" -- has forced many HIV-positive shantytown residents into the countryside, where there is little access to antiretroviral treatment (Salopek, Chicago Tribune, 11/7). The government began the evictions in May and used bulldozers to demolish shops and homes. About 700,000 people were left homeless (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 9/13).

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