December 15, 2008
The political and economic crises in Zimbabwe have made 2008 "the most difficult year" for people living with HIV/AIDS, say advocates.
Increasingly, patients are having difficulty accessing antiretroviral drugs (ARVs) because a number of health institutions, including the two main referring hospitals in Harare, have closed some units due to resource constraints. Health workers are also leaving Zimbabwe in droves, searching for better working conditions and better pay abroad. So HIV/AIDS patients in Zimbabwe face even longer wait times, according to the advocates.
"We have recorded an increase in the cases of individuals failing to access ARV treatment," said Otto Saki of Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights. "This is linked to the current collapse of the health delivery system and broader issues of governance."
"The current situation has made it very difficult for most of our members, especially those in rural areas, to access treatment," said Sikhumbuzo Mvinjelwa, chairperson of the Zimbabwe National Network for People Living with HIV/AIDS. "The transport costs are so prohibitive that it is not possible for patients to travel. Most of them end up defaulting [on treatment]."
Some health care workers are selling ARVs, which are supposed to be free of charge, to HIV/AIDS patients who do not want to disclose their status. In addition, the legal Justice AIDS Trust said it is handling numerous cases where people are using community-based organizations as a front to procure donor aid and then are embezzling the money. "There are a lot of organizations [aimed at supporting people with HIV/AIDS in Zimbabwe], but the intended beneficiaries are not getting much services," said Portia Mabasa, an attorney for JAT.