UNESCO plans to launch a network of HIV-positive teachers in Zimbabwe to help the group access no-cost antiretroviral drugs and other services, Zimbabwe's The Herald reports. Bekezela Mapanda -- UNESCO program assistant for education and HIV/AIDS -- said that the network aims to provide assistance to teachers, who often are poorly paid, to manage the rising price of drugs and other services. "We all know their salaries are very poor," Mapanda said, adding, "They cannot afford all the procedures needed before one is put on antiretroviral treatment; worse still, the drugs are required monthly." Teachers in Zimbabwe earn an average of 12,000 Zimbabwean dollars, or about $78, monthly, and antiretrovirals cost an average of $225,000 Zimbabwean dollars -- or about $1,460 -- monthly. The cost of antiretrovirals can fluctuate daily, The Herald reports.
According to Mapanda, teachers have "dominated cross-border trade business to raise extra income, causing them to engage in risky behavior, exposing them to risks of contracting HIV." She added that the network will allow teachers to access no-cost antiretrovirals, take part in national HIV/AIDS programs, and review workplace initiatives and policies. The UNESCO program follows recent comments from HIV-positive teachers in the country about their inability to access antiretrovirals from the government's program, as well as the high costs of the drugs at private pharmacies. According to some HIV-positive teachers who attended World Teachers' Day events in the capital of Harare last week, Zimbabwe's National AIDS Council should consider them when allocating budgetary assistance as it does for the armed forces. "I am lucky to be accessing free drugs, but my fear is that my health is deteriorating because of lack of a balanced diet and overworking catering for my family," teacher and HIV/AIDS advocate Joana Kasirori said. She also called on teachers to undergo voluntary HIV/AIDS testing and counseling and develop a network of HIV-positive teachers. Zimbabwe Teachers' Association President Tendai Chikowore said that teachers affected by HIV/AIDS feel most of the effects of inflation and other economic issues. "The situation is worse for our colleagues living with HIV and AIDS owing to prohibitive medical costs versus the teachers' meager salaries," she said (The Herald, 10/7).
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