Zimbabwe: Turning the tide in the fight against HIV and AIDS


Morgester (52) who works as a tailor in rural Zimbabwe says he is impressed by the programme through which he receives antiretroviral treatment for AIDS. Photo: The Global Fund/Charlie Shoemaker

Working as a volunteer at the Kuwadzana Polyclinic, a public health centre in Harare, Timothy Sandramu, 35, painfully recalls his distress in 2005 when he tested HIV-positive.

“I was brought here in a wheelchair by my mother,” Timothy says, noting that he had been ailing for some time, culminating in serious abdominal pains and loss of appetite.

Highlights

  • Zimbabwe has achieved one of the sharpest declines in HIV prevalence in Southern Africa, from 27% in 1997 to just over 15% in 2010, according to national data.
  • The total number of beneficiaries for antiretroviral therapy in the country is estimated at 203,440 by the end of 2012.
  • Zimbabwe is the single largest portfolio for the UNDP-Global Fund partnership which covers 25 countries around the world.

His subsequent AIDS diagnosis was followed by more devastating news.

I was told there was no immediate access to antiretroviral drugs and so I was kept on a waiting list until the following year. In those days, getting the right drugs in Zimbabwe was extremely difficult.”

However, today he is a rejuvenated man, a community worker who volunteers his time at the health centre and serves as the district chairperson of an AIDS support group coordinated by a local NGO, the Zimbabwe National Network for People Living with HIV/AIDS.

A beneficiary of the partnership between the government, the Global Fund and UNDP, Timothy is among thousands of people living with HIV who are assured of continued access to antiretroviral drugs.  A recently approved US$84 million disbursement by the Global Fund is part of a US$204.8 million grant managed by UNDP to help Zimbabwe achieve its plan for universal access to HIV treatment by the end of 2012.

This latest disbursement will cover the cost of life-saving antiretroviral therapy for an additional 10,000 people across the country, bringing the total number of beneficiaries to 203,440 by the end of 2012. The funds will also pay for the creation of a buffer stock of six months of antiretroviral drugs for all 480,000 adults receiving treatment for HIV/AIDS in Zimbabwe.

Zimbabwe has achieved one of the sharpest declines in HIV prevalence in Southern Africa, from 27% in 1997 to just over 15% in 2010, according to the  2010/2012 Zimbabwe Demographic Health Survey. This accomplishment is mostly attributed to the roll-out of free antiretroviral therapy through public clinics. 

“Considering where we have come from as a country, this Global Fund resource was instrumental in helping us to significantly scale-up our HIV treatment programmes,” explains Dr Tsitsi Apollo, the Programme Manager, AIDS and Tuberculosis Unit, Ministry of Health and Child Welfare. She further added that “effective partnerships have helped in terms of leveraging Global Fund resources to make a difference.”

By Sammy Mwiti

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