AIDS levy generates new resources for treatment

An additional 70 000 Zimbabweans living with HIV will get access to anti-retroviral (ARV) treatment by the end of 2012, using the country’s National AIDS Trust Fund. This announcement by the Zimbabwe National AIDS Council is a welcome sign for a country that has some 1.2 million adults and children living with HIV in 2009.

The reduction in multiple sexual partnerships major significant cause of the decline in HIV prevalence in Zimbabwe.
The reduction in multiple sexual partnerships major significant cause of the decline in HIV prevalence in Zimbabwe.

The trust fund, also known as the AIDS Levy, was introduced in 1999 and became effective in January 2000. Resources for the fund are collected through a Parliament special tax act, which requires formal employers and their employees in Zimbabwe to contribute 3 per cent of their income.

Conceived in response to the HIV epidemic in the country and limited government funding, the trust fund has begun to show a unique and substantive result in provision of antiretroviral drugs.

“We are pleased to have this innovative fund that does not exist anywhere else in the region. It is a major player in the national AIDS response,” noted Dr. Tapuwa Magure, Chief Executive Officer of the National AIDS Council.

The AIDS Levy is considered a resourceful approach to ensure sustainability and reducing aid dependency in the national response to HIV. “We are excited that other low income countries such as Tanzania, Kenya and Zambia are asking us how we are mobilizing resources through the fund,” said Dr. Magure. “It has been listed on the SADC’s best practice list!”

In 2011, the government collected US$26 million through the trust fund and this figure is expected to rise to US$30 million at the end of the current fiscal year. With the shift from using the Zimbabwe dollar to the US dollar, the fund started to show dramatic increases in 2009, generating US$5 million that year and US$20 million in 2010.

“These figures are a small but important contribution by the government and the tax payers to bridge the gap,” said Hon. Dr. Henry Madzorera, Minister of Health and Child Welfare.

According to the Minister Madzorera, half of the funds collected will be used to procure antiretroviral drugs while the other half will be spent to support other HIV-related activities, including prevention, coordination as well as communication and advocacy. The government expects the trust fund to grow as the economy recovers and more formal jobs are created in Zimbabwe. In the meantime, it is vital for international partners, including the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, to keep their commitments to sustain Zimbabwe’s treatment programme.

“What we are raising from tax is a far cry from what we require to reach all of our people with treatment, which means we need significant support for the next five years,” added the Hon. Minister.

Despite a very high inflation rate and the decreasing external funding, Zimbabwe continues to make encouraging progress in providing access to ARVs for people living with HIV, including pregnant mothers. By the end of 2010, more than 325 000 people— about 59 per cent of those eligible—were receiving HIV treatment, up from only 24 500, or 7 %, in 2005.

“The National AIDS Trust Fund has been created and grown by the people of Zimbabwe to become one of the major funders of the national response,” said Ms. Tatiana Shoumilina, UNAIDS Country Coordinator for Zimbabwe. “It is an ultimate symbol of national ownership and a sustainable road towards achieving Zero new HIV infections, Zero discrimination and Zero AIDS-related deaths.”

Post published in: Africa News

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