Zimbabwe’s Economic Crisis Raises Health Care Costs, Limits Access to Services Including HIV/AIDS Care
The economic crisis in Zimbabwe -- where inflation is close to 1,000% -- has dramatically raised the cost of health care, limiting access to medical services, including antiretroviral drugs for HIV-positive people, the Washington Post reports. Because of rising health care costs, people who cannot afford to pay for their medical services up front are denied treatment, and the cost of medications has doubled or tripled every few months. In addition, officials announced recently that antiretroviral drugs provided by a government program for 20,000 people living with HIV/AIDS will run out in a few weeks. According to health workers, many people living with HIV/AIDS in the country have stopped taking their medications because they cannot afford them, which increases their risk of developing drug-resistant HIV strains (Timberg, Washington Post, 5/11). A further complication has been posed by President Robert Mugabe's urban evictions campaign -- called "Operation Murambatsvina," which means "drive out the filth." The campaign in 2005 forced many HIV-positive shantytown residents into the countryside, where there is little access to antiretroviral treatment (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 11/9/05). HIV/AIDS advocates fear that displaced HIV-positive people receiving antiretroviral drugs might have difficulty accessing antiretroviral treatment. This could lead to treatment interruption and might increase the chance that they will develop drug resistant strains of the virus, IRIN News reports (IRIN News, 5/10). Although the Zimbabwean government in 2002 declared the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the country an emergency -- which allowed lower-cost generic drugs to be produced locally -- local drug makers lack the foreign currency needed to import the necessary raw materials, IRIN News reports. About 340,000 people in Zimbabwe need antiretroviral drugs and 26,000 currently are receiving them, IRIN News reports (IRIN News, 5/10).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.