Govt to foot the bill for ARVs

Western donors have ordered the cash-strapped government to pay the replacement cost for $1.5 million worth of AIDS drugs destroyed in a mysterious fire earlier this year.

The anti-retroviral drugs were destroyed when a delivery vehicle caught fire. The Minister of Health Henry Madzorera told The Zimbabwean that the government had no option but to scrounge around for money to replace the drugs. This, he said, would send the right signals to the donors, who are pouring millions annually into Zimbabwe's ailing health system.

"We've got to be good custodians of these donor-funded medicines," Madzorera said. "There were many questions raised after the drugs caught fire on their way to the provinces. We're investigating the cause of the fire. We'll get to the root of the problem. The government is committed to replacing these donor-funded medicines. It’s something we'll have to do."

Head of the European Union's health section in the country, Aboubacar Kampo said it would be a good thing if the government paid for the replacement of the lost drugs and concluded its investigations. The EU is one of the biggest funders of Zimbabwe's health sector and recently donated $10 million for essential medicines.

There have been complaints about the abuse of medicine and materials by state officials, some of whom have been caught demanding bribes from people living with AIDS.

Activist Stanley Takaona said a lot of materials dispatched by donors disappeared, while elitist programmes rendered them irrelevant to the poor, who are most affected.

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