The U.S. government said on Thursday it would provide $18 million worth of life-saving anti-retroviral (ARV) drugs to help Zimbabwe add 40,000 people to its HIV/AIDS treatment program.
The southern African country is among the worst hit by the epidemic, which kills more than 3,000 people every week and accounts for 70 percent of hospital admissions.
In a joint announcement, U.S. ambassador Christopher Dell and Zimbabwe’s Minister of Health David Parirenyatwa said ARVs worth $15 million would be made available over three years, while $3 million would be used to acquire rapid HIV testing kits over the same period.
Parirenyatwa said the additional drugs would increase the total number of people on the government’s ARV regimen from the current 81,000. The government says at least 340,000 people need ARVs.
Dell said the U.S government also had urged other donors to help Zimbabwe’s battle against the HIV/AIDS epidemic.
“This initial program is for three years and we hope that during that time, other donors and the Global Fund will be in a position to provide additional support,” Dell said.
Zimbabwe, despite its deep recession, has also become one of the few places on the continent where the HIV prevalence rate has gone down. It has declined to 18.1 percent last year from 25 percent six years ago.
However, the southern African country’s drive to increase access to ARVs has been hampered by a severe shortage of foreign currency, itself a sign of an economic crisis that has pushed inflation past 3,700 percent.