Zimbabwean AIDS Conference Delegates Recommend More Coordination Among Groups Fighting Disease, Improved Drug Access
Zimbabwe's first-ever HIV/AIDS conference ended on Friday with delegates recommending more coordination among groups fighting the disease, intensified prevention efforts and increased access to antiretroviral drugs, VOA News reports. Conference attendees also discussed the stigma surrounding HIV/AIDS and discrimination against HIV-positive people (Maphosa, VOA News, 6/18). The conference, titled "Taking Stock: Looking into the Future," examined Zimbabwe's progress in treating and preventing HIV/AIDS. Earlier this year, the Zimbabwean government announced a pilot project to distribute antiretroviral drugs at no cost to patients in select government hospitals. According to officials, about 70% of patients in Zimbabwe's hospitals are HIV-positive (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 6/18). Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe at the conference said that members of his family and cabinet had been affected by HIV/AIDS, according to Agence France-Presse. "There is hardly any community or family in our country that has not been touched or affected by HIV/AIDS and that includes the extended family of ... the president himself," Mugabe said. Blessing Chebundo, the shadow health minister in the opposition party Movement for Democratic Change, "lamented" that the conference did not assign specific roles for organizations or establish a timeline for actions, according to Agence France-Presse. "It ended up being a half talk show," Chebundo said. Zimbabwean Health Minister David Parirenyatwa said he wanted the conference to recommend a "clearer" position on testing, according to Agence France-Presse (Agence France-Presse, 6/20). Some AIDS advocates said they were "sidelined" from the conference, according to PlusNews. A statement from the group People Living With AIDS alleged that the National AIDS Council and the Ministry of Health ignored their concerns while providing medical specialists and dignitaries time to present their views, PlusNews reports (PlusNews, 6/18).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.