Zimbabwe Policies Thwart HIV Victims Seeking Help
November 8, 2005
Even in the best of times, Zimbabwe's AIDS crisis, 12.7 million citizens are HIV-infected, and up to 3,000 new cases surface every week, would be a daunting public-health challenge. But the problem is compounded by myriad other issues: hyperinflation, scarce foreign funds to import medicines, mass hunger, drought, and President Robert Mugabe's disastrous slum-clearing and land-reform policies.
Operation Murambatsvina ("drive out the filth") has seen entire shantytown neighborhoods bulldozed in the cities. Human rights groups say Mugabe is trying to drive poor people from the cities to the countryside, where his ruling party holds a tighter grip on power. In the cities, food aid is restricted to prohibit those whose homes were destroyed from returning.
The UN reports that the plummeting value of Zimbabwe's currency, $26,000 Zimbabwean are needed to buy $1 US, has raised the cost of a month's worth of generic AIDS drugs from $7.70-$17 US or more. The average monthly wage for a laborer in Zimbabwe is $20 US. While a few patients receive subsidized drugs from the Zimbabwean Health Ministry, the program's funding is inadequate to meet the needs of the 200,000-400,000 citizens with fully developed AIDS. Foreign aid is not filling the gap. The UN says HIV patients in neighboring Zambia receive on average $184 each in foreign aid, compared to just $4 on average per infected Zimbabwean. Foreign humanitarian groups are viewed with suspicion by the Mugabe regime.
The slum eradication campaign "destroyed all these feeding centers for people with HIV who were just beginning to learn to take antiretroviral drugs," one foreign aid worker said. "They needed that food to take along with their drugs. Now those people are probably dying, or at least in a critical state."
11.07.05; Paul Salopek
Zimbabwean Government Policies Hindering HIV/AIDS Efforts, Increasing Risk of Infection, HRW Report Says
This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.