ARV demand reaches shocking levels

arv_clinicHARARE - The rising demand for antiretroviral drugs, ARVs, in Zimbabwe will have soon have a serious negative impact on the countrys budget if the rate of infection is not urgently reduced by 50 percent, AIDS activists have warned.


Latest statistics show that demand for the life-saving ARV drugs has ballooned in Zimbabwe to 570 000 from 350 000. AIDS activists warned this week that if Zimbabwe did not cut the rate of infection by 50 percent, the fiscus will collapse.

HIV has slashed life expectancy in Zimbabwe by up to 19 years for men and 22 years for women with HIV-related illnesses killing more than 3 000 people every week.

Zimbabwe has one of the highest HIV prevalence rates in the world, although the rate has been coming down in recent years.

Finance minister Tendai Biti has reportedly approved an implementation plan to scale up the HIV/Aids prevention and treatment programme in a looming supplementary budget.

The new plan aims to reduce the rate of infection by 50 percent by 2011 and to provide ARV treatment to 80 percent of those who need it.

“It is a good thing that people can now commence treatment earlier because at a CD4 count of 200, someone could already have been attacked by several opportunistic infections,” National Aids Council chief executive officer Dr Tapuwa Magure said.

“However, there are major implications on available resources. At present there are 570 000 people including children, that are on ARV programmes.

“With these developments, we obviously need to revise our targets and source more resources so that we can scale up provision of ARVs.”

More emphasis must be placed on prevention through information, education, widespread distribution of condoms and mobilisation of millions of Zimbabweans to know their status, he told a workshop on National Partnership Forum on updates of HIV and Aids programmes in Zimbabwe

The country’s economic woes, which critics blame on President Mugabe’s policies, have destroyed the public health system, a factor highlighted by the 2008 cholera outbreak, which killed almost 5 000 people.

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