AIDS-Related Deaths in Zimbabwe Increasing as Health System Collapses, Los Angeles Times Reports
Zimbabwe's health system is collapsing after a financial crisis in the country, causing an increase in AIDS-related deaths since the government in October 2006 stopped providing treatment to people newly diagnosed with HIV/AIDS, the Los Angeles Times reports (Dixon, Los Angeles Times, 12/30/07).
The country's efforts to increase access to antiretroviral drugs have been delayed by a shortage of foreign currency, which has increased poverty levels and raised inflation by 3,700%. More than 3,000 people die of AIDS-related illnesses weekly in the country, and 70% of hospital admissions in Zimbabwe are HIV/AIDS-related (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 10/29/07).
According to the World Health Organization, 321,000 people in the country are in need of antiretrovirals, but only 91,000 people have access to the drugs. In addition, only about 6% of children in need of HIV/AIDS treatment are receiving it. According to the Times, about 24% of people in the country in need of antiretrovirals receive them, compared with an average of 28% across sub-Saharan Africa.
Treatment at private clinics also is not available for many HIV-positive people in the country. According to a recent report by the International Treatment Preparedness Coalition, the number of people living with HIV/AIDS who are receiving treatment at private clinics has decreased from 10,000 in July 2007 to 6,000 because government policies and inflation have caused treatment costs to increase. Many people living with the disease who have been unable to access antiretrovirals have turned to traditional healers, many of whom use herbal remedies to treat the disease, the Times reports (Los Angeles Times, 12/30/07).
Government Doctors, Nurses in Zimbabwe Strike, Demand Higher Wages
In related news, government-employed doctors and nurses in Zimbabwe last week went on strike and demanded higher wages, Reuters reports. Thousands of health workers in the country also are leaving to find better-paying jobs in Australia, Britain or South Africa, which is further affecting the country's HIV/AIDS situation and drug shortages, according to Reuters.
Zimbabwe's Health and Child Welfare Minister David Parirenyatwa on Sunday said the government is negotiating with doctors and nurses. "We are talking to them as we have always done through the Health Services Board and we hope to reach some agreement soon," Parirenyatwa said. According to Reuters, Zimbabwean doctors receive about 60 million Zimbabwean dollars, or about $2,000, monthly, and nurses receive about 30 million Zimbabwean dollars, or about $1,000, monthly.
Student and army doctors are staffing government hospitals and clinics during the strike, Reuters reports. Doctors and nurses at private clinics currently are not involved in the strike (Dzirutwe, Reuters, 12/30/07).