Zimbabwe is hopeful that international donors will provide cash to increase the number of HIV/AIDS patients on life prolonging anti-retroviral (ARV) drugs, Health Minister David Parirenyatwa said on Wednesday.
Health officials, speaking on the eve of World AIDS Day, said an estimated 21,000 people were on ARVs in the country while latest figures showed that 1.61 million are living with HIV/AIDS.
A majority of the patients are being treated in government hospitals where prices are cheaper, the officials said.
“We hope that we will get more people, the donors especially, to assist in putting more people on ARVs,” Parirenyatwa said at the launch of the national HIV/AIDS estimates for 2005.
“I am hoping that come next year, with the global fund money coming through, we should have more people on treatment,” he said but offered no further details.
The Geneva-based Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria attracts, manages and disburses cash to fight the diseases - top killers in Africa.
The health officials said some 289,000 people were in need of ARVs in the southern African country and although a local company had started manufacturing generic ARVs, this was not enough to meet demand by HIV/AIDS patients.
In an AIDS Day message on state television, President Robert Mugabe, who has clashed with the West mainly over rights abuse charges, said Zimbabwe’s fight against AIDS had been undermined by “the unjustified British-led international demonization of our country which has seen some international donors and multi-lateral agencies withholding their humanitarian support”.
Mugabe rejects the abuse charges against his government and says the West is out to punish it over its seizure of white-owned farms for redistribution to landless blacks.
Zimbabwe’s HIV infection rate has fallen to around 20 percent of the population from 25 percent five years ago, apparently due to more condom use and fewer sex partners, a rare piece of encouraging news for a country battling its worst economic and political crisis since independence in 1980.
But Zimbabwe, with a population of some 12.5 million, still has among the world’s highest HIV prevalence rates, with over 146,000 having died from the disease so far in 2005.
Zimbabwe is expected to record 134,993 new HIV infections and 142,330 AIDS cases by the end of this year while another 139,950 people are expected to die from the disease. Some 57 percent of infections and deaths are women.