HIV/AIDS Advocates Call on Zimbabwe To Address Broad Health Care Issues To Provide Increased Access to Antiretrovirals
Although some HIV/AIDS advocates in Zimbabwe are welcoming a recent pledge from the Zimbabwean government to provide increased access to antiretroviral drugs by the end of this year, they also are stressing the need to address a broader crisis in the country's health care system, VOA News reports (Mwakalyelye, VOA News, 1/22). The Zimbabwean government earlier this month announced plans to increase the number of HIV-positive people who receive no-cost antiretrovirals. Dwen Mugurungi, national coordinator of Zimbabwe's HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis program, said that the government hopes to enroll about 160,000 people in its antiretroviral program by the end of this year. Currently, 50,000 out of an estimated 500,000 HIV-positive people in the country who need antiretrovirals are receiving them through the government (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 1/16).
Health Care Infrastructure, Other Issues
Some HIV/AIDS advocates say expanding access to antiretrovirals will require ramping up drug delivery and improving the health care infrastructure within which the drugs are delivered. In addition, there has been ongoing disorder in hospitals throughout the country, according to the advocates. About 350 junior and senior resident doctors in government hospitals in Harare and Bulawayo are on strike, and hundreds of nurses are on strike in various cities nationwide, according to VOA News. Some experts have said that efforts to increase access to antiretrovirals might be hampered because hospitals and clinics nationwide are understaffed and inadequately equipped, VOA News reports (VOA News, 1/22). Zimbabwe's government has called in army medical officers to staff hospitals because of the strike, Health Minister David Parirenyatwa said on Saturday, Reuters South Africa reports. The doctors and nurses have been protesting since late December 2006 for 8,000% wage increases. "We are mobilizing the army medical corps to alleviate the situation," Parirenyatwa, said, adding, "We started with 14 but more should come on board as we are mobilizing all the time ... we're doing our best to restore services to normal." Junior doctors have earned about $221 monthly since a previous strike in July 2006. The latest action has "further strained a public health system that is barely functional at the best of times" and has struggled to handle a high number of HIV/AIDS cases, Reuters South Africa reports. "The government continues to handle this situation in a shoddy manner," Kudakwashe Nyamutukwa, head of the Hospital Doctors' Association, said, adding, "How can four army doctors replace 100 who are normally on duty?" Parirenyatwa on Friday said the government has worked out a package of salaries, transport and accommodation for all health workers in the country, but he would not disclose details of the package. "As long as what they intend to offer us remains a secret, our position does not change," Nyamutukwa said, adding, "In any case, we suspect they are not revealing the package because they know we will not accept it" (Banya, Reuters South Africa, 1/20).