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over govt plan to treble ARV beneficiaries
January 11, 2006
BULAWAYO - The
Zimbabwean government has announced its intention to treble the
number of people on its free antiretroviral (ARV) programme in 2007,
but experts are sceptical about the health sector's capacity to
achieve this goal.
now hovering around 1,200 percent annually, and a scarcity of foreign
currency have crippled healthcare provision, creating shortages
of drugs, medical equipment and even personnel, who have migrated
in search of better salaries and living conditions.
National Coordinator of the government's HIV/AIDS and Tuberculosis
programme, this week told the media that government had pulled together
resources that would be channelled into improving the lives of people
living with the virus and increase access to the life-prolonging
that by end of 2007 about 160,000 people would have been enrolled
under the ARV rollout programme, and we are working very hard to
ensure that this happens," he said. Only 50,000 of an estimated
500,000 Zimbabweans in need of ARVs are receiving the drugs from
were quick to question Mugurungi's targets, describing them as "empty
and just too ambitious".
deputy chairperson of the Zimbabwe
National Network for People Living with HIV/AIDS, said he doubted
the government's ability to treble the number of those accessing
a welcome development to hear government make such a pledge, but
it would appear just too ambitious to me. What they need to do is
to go an extra mile, way beyond simple pledges and promises, and
harness resources that would promote free or affordable distribution
are hundreds of thousands of infected people who die prematurely
due to lack of access to drugs, and it is high time our government
manoeuvred from its cocoon and faced reality; we need treatment
as soon as possible," said the activist, who has lived with
HIV for more than a decade.
A month's course
of antiretroviral medication, which cost anywhere from US$200 to
$400 (according to the official rate) on the parallel market in
2006, shot up by another US$100 in January 2007.
official statistics, the southern African country has one of the
highest HIV prevalence rates in the world, with 18 percent of its
11.5 million people infected. Statistics show that about 3,500 people
succumb to the disease every week, and health experts have attributed
the large number of deaths to lack of treatment, which is extremely
difficult to obtain in rural areas.
25, an activist from rural Madlambuzi, a village in southern Zimbabwe,
is living with the virus. She said the government has done little
to improve the lives of those infected, especially in the countryside.
they tell us there will be treatment programmes soon; they started
saying so a long time ago, and now I am afraid I will die even before
the programme starts because I can now feel I am terribly sick and
weak. My child passed away two weeks ago and I know I am next. My
boyfriend is also not feeling well ... if we had the ARVs that we
hear people talk of, I think we would be better off and live longer.
Government should work hard to make treatment accessible to all
communities," said Mhlanga.
rolling out drugs at its Opportunistic Infection Clinics four years
ago, but the programme has largely been confined to urban areas.
The second city of Bulawayo has four of these clinics, which cater
to 5,000 patients.
the authorities, most of the drugs the government wishes to roll
out will be manufactured locally by the country's main supplier,
Varichem, which requires at least US$1 million in scarce foreign
exchange every month for importing raw materials to produce the
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