MORE than 1.3 million Zimbabweans living with HIV/Aids are at risk as the cash-strapped government battles to raise $6m needed to unlock $400m in donor funding for antiretroviral (ARV) drugs.
The southern African nation is facing critical shortages of medicines and patients are being asked to pay for their prescriptions in hard currency. The elite and top government officials are seeking medical treatment abroad to avoid the country’s dire health services.
Most people on ARVs rely on drugs supplied by public hospitals through a facility funded by the Global Fund.
To access the $400 million for ARVs from the organisation Zimbabwe must pay $6 million as a compulsory contribution.
Harare’s failure to raise the funds has prompted fears that Aids-related deaths will rise.
People living with HIV and activists last week petitioned parliament to compel government to urgently secure the funds. They also complained of receiving expired drugs and that their advance supplies had been reduced from three months to two weeks.
Zimbabwe’s justice minister, Ziyambi Ziyambi, said in response to the petition that only $2.9 million had been raised.
He said minister of health Obadiah Moyo and the finance ministry had confirmed $2.9 million was paid but that $6 million was needed.
‘What is required is to pay the $6m so that we can access the benefits. If we do not pay it means that we will not be able to get the ARVs. I will follow up and advise accordingly,’ Ziyambi said.
Parliamentary portfolio committee on health chair Ruth Labode implored the government to act urgently, saying the situation was desperate.
In the petition HIV activists accused President Emmerson Mnangagwa of spending state funds lavishly while ignoring the plight of ordinary citizens.
In the past two weeks Mnangagwa has hired a jet from Dubai twice to fly to local destinations. He also uses it for his frequent international trips.