December 31, 2003

Provision of free Aids drugs

The Government has announced the long-awaited provision of free anti-retroviral drugs in public hospitals to fight the HIV and Aids pandemic sweeping across the nation. The decision has followed on the heels of that of neighbouring South Africa, which has already rolled out the biggest anti-retroviral programme in the world that will see more than one million people benefiting. The South African treatment programme is the biggest initiative that any country has taken to combat and prevent the spread of the pandemic.

For Zimbabwe, the decision to initiate a treatment programme for people living with HIV and Aids is timely and will give a new lease of life to thousands of people who are living with the disease. It would mean that having HIV would no longer be an automatic death sentence. An average of 2.000 people die of Aids in Zimbabwe every week and this translates to more than 280 a day. More than two million people of the population (which officially counts 11 million) are living with HIV and the number is set to rise if no meaningful mitigation measures are taken to stop the spread of the disease.

The Minister of Health and Child Welfare, Dr David Parirenyatwa, announced that the Government had targeted 260.000 people for a programme that would run until 2005. Instituting treatment for people infected with the virus has several gains attached to it, not only to the people affected but also to the nation. Administering anti-retroviral drugs would certainly prolong their lives and that would mean that many children would not be orphaned at an early age, as is the case today. (The Herald, Harare)

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