Half countrys HIV victims miss out on drugs

arv_patientHARARE - Fewer than half of Zimbabwes HIV/AIDS sufferers are being supplied with the antiretroviral drugs (ARVs) they need. The country needs around US$70 million to be able to supply ARVs to 530,000 people, but the money available from the AIDS levy and donors falls far short.

Currently, only 250,000 people are receiving the life-prolonging drugs and 95 Per cent of them are still on first-line drugs, which are cheaper.

Chief Executive Officer for the National Aids Council (NAC) Dr Tapuwa Magure said more funds were needed for drugs as the number of people in need had increased.

About US$70 million is needed for the purchase of drugs per year and we are basing this at a unit cost of about $10 per person a month, which adds up to US$120 per year, he said.

This, he said, was a result of the recently introduced World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines to start ARV therapy for people living with HIV at a CD4 count of 350, up from 200.

This pushed the number of people needing treatment up from 350 000, further widening the funding gaps in the national response to HIV and AIDS, which is mainly dependent on donor support.

The AIDS levy contributes 35 per cent towards the HIV response, while the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria (GFTAM), the Expanded Support Programme and other donors contribute 65 per cent.

Zimbabwe recently received US$21 million under round five phase two of the Global Fund for various HIV interventions, augmenting the domestic AIDS levy, which has collected US$8.4 million since the introduction of the multicurrency system.

NAC however said this amount fell far too short of what was ideally required to ensure a comprehensive response.

Antiretroviral drugs are being imported into the country, so is diagnostic machinery like CD4 count machines, chemistry analysers, full blood count machines, laboratory reagents, test kits, among other accessories, he said.

He said there was need for funding for prevention, care and support, mitigation, coordination and monitoring and evaluation, which were critical to ensuring a comprehensive response to the pandemic.

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