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Globe and Mail Examines How Inflation, Exchange Shortages Hinder Access to ARVs in Zimbabwe

April 4, 2006

Toronto's Globe and Mail on Monday examined access to antiretroviral therapy in Zimbabwe, where inflation of at least 700% monthly and foreign-exchange shortages over the past few months have increased the price of antiretrovirals so that even "well-educated, gainfully employed people ... cannot afford to start or to stay on the drugs." Interrupting antiretroviral therapy "is not only a death sentence," but it also "raises the specter of a spread of a drug-resistant strain of HIV across the region," the Globe and Mail reports. In addition, tests needed to measure CD4+ T cell counts have become too expensive for many people to afford, and some laboratories in the country say that they cannot pay for the imported chemicals needed to run the tests. Of the 320,000 HIV-positive Zimbabweans who need immediate access to antiretrovirals, about 20,000 receive them -- an estimated 15,000 of whom receive the drugs at no cost from the government. It is unclear how long the government will continue to supply the drugs at no cost, according to the Globe and Mail. In addition, because of sanctions against the government of President Robert Mugabe, Zimbabwe receives an estimated $8 per person living with HIV in foreign aid annually, compared with $184 per person annually in neighboring Zambia (Nolen, Globe and Mail, 4/3).

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