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HIV-Positive People Seeking No-Cost Antiretrovirals in Zimbabwe to Increase Following Procurement of T Cell Tests, AIDS Council Says

February 13, 2008

The number of people living with HIV/AIDS seeking access to no-cost antiretroviral drugs in Zimbabwe likely will increase following the procurement of tests that count CD4+ T cells, Zimbabwe's National AIDS Council said recently, the Herald/ reports.

The tests were purchased with support from the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria and distributed last week by NAC to 13 districts in the country, including Binga and Bulilima in the Matabeleland province. The test counts an HIV-positive person's number of T cells, determining the progression of the virus. In Zimbabwe, an HIV-positive person can obtain access to no-cost antiretrovirals only if his or her T cell count is below 200 cells per cubic milliliter of blood. According to the Herald/, procurement of the machines will increase the number of people tested and subsequently increase the number of people who qualify for no-cost treatment.

NAC board member Delma Lupepe said that in the past, there were only five districts in the country that provided no-cost antiretrovirals. He added that the "recent procurement of 13 [T cell] count machines will see all the 22 identified Global Fund sites rolling out" antiretrovirals. Zimbabwe's Health and Child Welfare Minister David Parirenyatwa said that people living with HIV/AIDS "no longer need to travel long distance to undergo [T cell] count testing. We have brought [HIV-positive people] the drugs, equipment, as well as manpower." He added that the Global Fund is assisting most physicians in district hospitals with salary increases and retention fees. Parirenyatwa said he hopes the program aimed at assisting health professionals financially will expand to all districts in the country to increase retention rates (Herald/, 2/11).

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