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Zimbabwe AIDS drugs dwindling

5th May 2006

Zimbabwe is running out of drugs to treat AIDS, the state-run Herald newspaper reports.

About 20% of Zimbabweans aged from 15 to 49 are infected with HIV, and 3,000 die of AIDS-related illness each week.

About 20,000 people receive anti-retroviral (ARV) drugs but the country has less than one month's supply. The effectiveness of ARV treatment depends on the patient following the programme of medication carefully, and failure to take the drugs on time can cause serious illness.

It is estimated that $7.4 million is required to fund the drug programme but only $106,000 has been provided so far this year.

The shortage is blamed on a foreign currency crisis which has made basic food items such as maize meal and cooking oil hard to obtain in Zimbabwe. The country has the highest annual rate of inflation in the world at more than 900%, and the lowest life expectancy, at less than 40. According to a UN-commissioned survey last year, HIV infection rates in Zimbabwe are on the decline, falling by almost 5% in two years, which was attributed to changing sexual behaviour and condom use.

 

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