'600 000 have access to ARVs'

HARARE - At least 600 000 people living with HIV now have access to antiretroviral drugs as the country scales up efforts  to fight a disease which has killed about 25 million people worldwide since it was discovered in the early 1980s.

According to UNAIDS country coordinator Tatiana Shoumilina, every person who presents themselves at a medical facility and requires the life prolonging drugs can access them.

“Zimbabwe has actually achieved global goal of adult access to antiretroviral treatment,” Shoumilina said in a wide ranging interview with the Daily News yesterday.

She said the HIV prevalence and new infections had gone down significantly because of Zimbabwe’s people oriented policies.

Zimbabwe has presented the biggest reduction in the prevalence and incidence of HIV in southern Africa even though it receives less funding to combat the disease as compared to its neighbours.

“This is because Zimbabwe is a country that prioritises people, the country chooses to work with people living with HIV to combat the disease. It is one of the only countries that will say ‘yes we have no money but we will raise money for treatment’,” Shoumilina said.

She stressed that the availability of adequate funding for HIV/Aids programmes had propelled government to scale up efforts.

“It is a case of the silver lining. There is always a silver lining in a dark cloud, because there was not enough money, Zimbabwe learnt to prioritise and it chose to invest in saving people’s lives,” she said.

Shoumilina, whose organisation supports Zimbabwe by helping her identify investments and capturing them in the fight against HIV/Aids, applauded the country’s efforts in the fight against the disease, which has claimed at least 6 million Zimbabwean lives. - Thelma Chikwanha, Features Editor

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