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AIDS activists arrested on World AIDS day
Women and AIDS Support Network (WASN)
December 05, 2005

A sad development happened when we were commemorating the World AIDS day. Five of our activists were arrested in an unfortunate circumstance where there was communication breakdown amongst the police department. An application for police clearance according to POSA was made to hold a march. It was first turned down and a court application was made which later was withdrawn on the understanding that the police were going to give clearance, which they did in writing. However to our surprise the police later denied having cleared the march and five of our activists were arrested on allegations that the march was illegal. It is an unfortunate situation that people were arrested for marching in commemoration of the World AIDS Day (WAD) on the 1st of December 2005.

World AIDS Day was conceived and adopted unanimously by 140 countries meeting at the World Summit of Ministers of Health on AIDS, London in January 1988. The day was envisaged as an opportunity for governments, national AIDS programmes, non- governmental and local organizations, as well as individuals everywhere, to demonstrate both the importance they attached to the fight against AIDS and their solidarity in this effort.

Zimbabwe has an official estimate of 2million people living with HIV, between 300 000 and 500 000 who are in urgent need of Antiretroviral drugs (ARVs). People on treatment in both the private and public sector are only 20 000. It is worrying to note that the shortage of ARVs is being experienced by people already on treatment. There is evidence on the ground that there are people who have started treatment and have gone to some public health centres around the country and could not get drugs and those who did get them got drugs for only one or two weeks instead of a month’s supply. The inconsistent supply of ARVs has caused panic especially to those that are living with HIV and we are beginning to loose the confidence the community had gained in the ARV rollout programme.

According to the Ministry of Health and Child Welfare (MOHCW) 2004 report, approximately 2 000 people are dying of AIDS every week. There are reports stating that 1 child in every 15 minutes is dying of AIDS in Zimbabwe and 1,2 million children have been orphaned by HIV and AIDS. However, the productive age group (15 –49 years) is the one most affected by the epidemic. As stated in the MOHCW 2004 report AIDS is now responsible for about nine out of every 10 deaths in the 15 to 49 year age group. As a result companies are loosing in terms of production due to absenteeism, deaths, recruiting and training new personnel. Moreover these are the people that are contributing towards the 3% AIDS Levy. This is seriously affecting the economic and social development of the country. The Agricultural sector being the backbone of the economy is the worst affected sector and this is a threat to the country’s food security.

We want to salute our activists who braved the detention and also took this as an opportunity to educate the police force and the inmates on the urgency of the issues of HIV and AIDS. As we continue to campaign for improved access to HIV and AIDS related treatment we urge the AIDS service organizations, funders, corporate world and government to come on board. Let us remember that HIV and AIDS is a state of emergency and as such it should be treated by all.

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