Reforms To Curb HIV-AIDS In Zimbabwe

Human Rights Watch Urges Reforms To Curb HIV-AIDS In Zimbabwe, By Carole Gombakomba, 28 July 2006.

The international advocacy group Human Rights Watch has warned that the progress Zimbabwe has made fighting HIV-AIDS could be undone if the government does not reform its health care and human rights policies to widen access to treatment.

Human Rights Watch acknowledged the country’s “significant” achievement in bringing its HIV prevalence rate – the proportion of adults infected with the AIDS virus – down to one in five Zimbabweans in 2004 from about one in four several years earlier.

But the group says health and social welfare policies have in effect denied access to care to tens of thousands of Zimbabweans needing immediate care. Only 25,000 of an estimated 350,000 people in urgent need of anti-retroviral drugs are receiving them because of their high cost and inequities in distribution of the rare drugs, it said.

Though there are payment exemptions for the poor, the report says little information is made available, the bureaucratic process for obtain an exemption is cumbersome and the selection of beneficiaries is often subjective and arbitrary, the report said.

The group said the destruction of homes and the crackdown on informal business in the 2005 Operation Murambatsvina (”Drive Out Rubbish”), disrupted the treatment of many living with HIV-AIDS. The campaign also increased the risk of new infections by destroying neighborhood supply chains for the sale of condoms, and pushing women who lost their incomes in the campaign into hazardous commercial sexual activity.

Reporter Carole Gombakomba of VOA’s Studio 7 for Zimbabwe asked Human Rights Watch researcher Tiseke Kasambala why the organization says Harare has failed to deliver HIV-AIDS treatment to more of its citizens who desperately need them.

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