The right to ARVs

People living with HIV want access to anti-retroviral treatment enshrined in the new constitution as a right for all.

The new constitution gives HIV/AIDS patients an opportunity to seek change.
The new constitution gives HIV/AIDS patients an opportunity to seek change.

Zimbabwe is among the countries most affected by the HIV/AIDS pandemic, with an estimated 3,000 people dying weekly from AIDS-related illness, according to the National AIDS Council. But the current concern is that Zimbabwe is failing to satisfy the demand of 700 000 people who need ARVs. It is believed only 570 000 people have access to the drugs.

The ongoing drafting of a new Constitution is very significant for those living with HIV, and they want provisions made for legal protection against discrimination and a right to free healthcare.

Legal guidelines

After a National Health and Rights Advocacy roundtable in Harare last week, attended by officials from the Zimbabwe National Network of People Living with HIV and AIDS, legal guidelines were drawn up on how these articles could be applied to people living with HIV.

ZNNP+, a national umbrella body that represents and coordinates the interests and activities of support groups and people living with HIV in Zimbabwe, says it is unhappy with the way that the government is handling the epidemic, and wants an expanded Bill of Rights in the new constitution with provisions on non-discrimination that apply expressly to the rights of people living with HIV and chronic illnesses.

An HIV positive activist, said: “To this day the GNU has taken no significant action in response to the epidemic, continuing the record of inaction and indifference of the previous administration. There is no adequate national programme for controlling the epidemic.”

The legal guidelines say people living with HIV should be represented and meaningfully engaged with at every level of the remaining consultation in the constitution making process.

The right to health

"There is a need to recognize the right to health as a basic right that should be guaranteed in the new constitution," says the appeal. "This recognition should identify the right to health as encompassing the provision of adequate and quality health care, diagnostic testing, access to treatment, free anti-retroviral drugs (ARVs) to those who need them and transparency in the administration of health resources."

The roundtable also resolved that there should be a national monitoring body or mechanism to oversee, enforce and promote the enjoyment of all basic rights to be provided for in the new constitution.

While Zimbabwe remains one of the countries with the highest case loads of HIV and AIDS, the government is being widely commended for its HIV/AIDS policies, largely due to its treatment programme. However, insufficient funds are affecting the purchase of adequate drugs.

Post published in: Health
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