June 7, 2005
Friday in Harare, Zimbabwe's government unveiled a new HIV/AIDS policy strategy designed to stall the spread of the epidemic that claims at least 3,000 lives weekly and to decrease discrimination against HIV/AIDS patients. The plan aims to reduce the rate of HIV infection in the public and private sector, according to Public Service Commission Chairperson Mariyawanda Nzuwah.
The 17-page document lists 16 objectives that include providing HIV/AIDS education and avoiding worker transfers that separate spouses. The policy requires employers to create working conditions favorable to HIV/AIDS patients.
Zimbabwe has an infection rate of 24.6 percent, and about one person dies from AIDS-related illness every three minutes, according to the National AIDS Council. AIDS accounts for 70 percent of hospital bed occupancy.
The government collects a monthly levy from workers to fund HIV/AIDS projects, but a collapsing public health sector and dwindling donor funding because of strained relations between the Zimbabwean government and former Western benefactors compromise its battle against the disease. Vice President Joyce Mujuru acknowledges that Zimbabwe does not have enough money to fight HIV/AIDS.
Under the new policy, government ministries and departments will receive money from the treasury every year for HIV/AIDS awareness and prevention programs at workplaces. "The challenge ahead is to find the resources to fund all the activities in the document but I firmly believe that where there is a will there is a way," Mujuru said.