IRIN/Plus News Examines HIV/AIDS Services in Zimbabwe Following Economic Crisis
IRIN/Plus News on Monday examined services for people living with HIV/AIDS in Zimbabwe following an economic crisis in the country. According to IRIN/Plus News, HIV/AIDS programs have "weathered" the economic crisis better than other health programs because of support from donors such as the Global Fund To Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, UNICEF and the Clinton Foundation.
Most HIV-positive people who were receiving antiretroviral drugs before the economic crisis continued to receive the drugs during the crisis, although some doctors temporarily changed patients' antiretroviral regimes because of low supplies. According to the Ministry of Health and Child Welfare, slightly less than half of the people estimated to be in need of antiretrovirals, or about 153,000 people, are receiving them. Health Minister Henry Madzorera said it is possible Zimbabwe could achieve universal HIV treatment next year. Although antiretroviral drugs are now available at no cost in most hospitals in the country, treatments for opportunistic infections and equipment to monitor HIV is often not available or too expensive, IRIN/Plus News reports.
During the economic crisis, many public clinics began charging fees to patients to compensate for low funding. The fees currently vary among facilities with some charging HIV-positive people about $10 for a consultation and others charging for tests that measure CD4 cell counts and for certain drugs that are not provided by donors. Madzorera said the health ministry plans to phase out user fees for HIV patients, children younger than age five and pregnant women and make fees for other services consistent among all facilities. In addition, the health ministry is working to improve supplies of medication and repair hospital equipment.
In addition, IRIN/Plus News reports that health workers, many of whom quit working during the crisis, are returning to work. The health workers are receiving a donor-funded allowance of $100 per month, but Madzorera said the government is expected to fund and gradually increase the allowances over the next year. "We've got 101 priorities, but the burning, immediate ones are the human resource issue. If we can get our health care workers back and remunerate them properly, that would be half the job done," Madzorera said (IRIN/Plus News, 5/11). This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.