AIDS-Related Deaths In Zimbabwe Increasing

Armen Hareyan's picture

Zimbabwe's health system is collapsing after a financial crisis inthe country, causing an increase in AIDS-related deaths since thegovernment in October 2006 stopped providing treatment to peoplenewly diagnosed with HIV/AIDS, the LosAngeles Times reports (Dixon, Los Angeles Times,12/30/07).

The country's efforts to increase access toantiretroviral drugs have been delayed by a shortage of foreigncurrency, which has increased poverty levels and raised inflation by3,700%. More than 3,000 people die of AIDS-related illnesses weeklyin the country, and 70% of hospital admissions in Zimbabwe areHIV/AIDS-related (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 10/29/07).

Accordingto the World HealthOrganization, 321,000 people in the country are in need ofantiretrovirals, but only 91,000 people have access to the drugs. Inaddition, only about 6% of children in need of HIV/AIDS treatment arereceiving it. According to the Times, about 24% ofpeople in the country in need of antiretrovirals receive them,compared with an average of 28% across sub-Saharan Africa.


Treatmentat private clinics also is not available for many HIV-positive peoplein the country. According to a recent report by the InternationalTreatment Preparedness Coalition, the number of people livingwith HIV/AIDS who are receiving treatment at private clinics hasdecreased from 10,000 in July 2007 to 6,000 because governmentpolicies and inflation have caused treatment costs to increase. Manypeople living with the disease who have been unable to accessantiretrovirals have turned to traditional healers, many of whom useherbal remedies to treat the disease, the Times reports(Los Angeles Times, 12/30/07).

Government Doctors, Nurses in Zimbabwe Strike, Demand HigherWages

In related news, government-employed doctors and nurses inZimbabwe last week went on strike and demanded higher wages, Reutersreports. Thousands of health workers in the country also are leavingto find better-paying jobs in Australia, Britain or South Africa,which is further affecting the country's HIV/AIDS situation and drugshortages, according to Reuters.

Zimbabwe'sHealth and Child Welfare Minister David Parirenyatwa on Sunday saidthe government is negotiating with doctors and nurses. "We aretalking to them as we have always done through the Health ServicesBoard and we hope to reach some agreement soon," Parirenyatwasaid. According to Reuters, Zimbabwean doctors receiveabout 60 million Zimbabwean dollars, or about $2,000, monthly, andnurses receive about 30 million Zimbabwean dollars, or about $1,000,monthly.

Student and army doctors are staffing governmenthospitals and clinics during the strike, Reuters reports.Doctors and nurses at private clinics currently are not involved inthe strike (Dzirutwe, Reuters, 12/30/07).

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