Increasing Number of Zimbabweans Living With HIV/AIDS Accessing Antiretroviral Treatment in Mozambique
As economic conditions in Zimbabwe worsen, an increasing number of people living with HIV/AIDS in the country are crossing the border into Mozambique to access no-cost antiretroviral drugs, AFP/Yahoo! News reports.
"Hundreds of Zimbabweans come here to get AIDS treatment that Mozambique provides for free," Aarao Uaquico, local coordinator of Mozambique's National Council Against AIDS, said. According to Marilia Pugas, a provincial head doctor, physicians in Mozambique "accommodate all patients without discriminating." More than 100,000 HIV-positive people have access to no-cost antiretrovirals in Mozambique, compared with 7,000 in 2005. "It is extraordinary," Mozambican UNAIDS Representative Maurico Cysne said, adding, "But the costs are enormous." According to Cysne, treatment costs $50 per person annually. The number of Zimbabweans who have received treatment in Mozambique has not been well documented, AFP/Yahoo! News reports.
The average HIV/AIDS prevalence in Mozambique is 16%, but it is as high as 23% in some areas that serve as transit points for commercial trucks traveling from Zimbabwe, Zambia and Malawi to the Mozambican port of Beira. Uaquico said there are commercial sex workers along the truck route, many of whom are Zimbabweans "more concerned about survival than protecting themselves against" HIV/AIDS.
According to UNAIDS, 15.6% of Zimbabwe's adults ages 15 to 49 are affected by HIV/AIDS. The number of Zimbabweans who have crossed into Mozambique has increased significantly since the countries removed visa requirements in November 2007. Illegal migration also has increased because of a backlog in issuing passports to Zimbabweans seeking to travel to Mozambique. Provincial Migration Service Director Felipe Cumbe said that 22,636 Zimbabweans, mostly women, in January crossed the Mozambican border legally at three posts in Manica, compared with 8,971 in January 2007. He said, "They are allowed to stay for 30 days, but 85% make their purchases and return. We don't know what happens to the other 15%" (AFP/Yahoo! News, 3/2).