Every HIV+ person to get ARVs: Govt

HARARE - Government is mooting an ambitious roll-out of anti-retroviral drugs (ARVs) to every Zimbabwean who tests HIV positive.

David Parirenyatwa, the Health and Child Care minister, told delegates to a Southern Africa HIV and AIDS Information Dissemination Service (SafAIDS) community event in Mhondoro-Ngezi last Friday that all HIV positive people should access the life-prolonging treatment despite their CD-4 count.

“We want ARVs to be everywhere and we don’t want to hear about shortages,” he said. “Now we are saying we need every HIV positive person to be on ARVs.”

Latest World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines recommend that those with a CD-4 count of 500 be immediately initiated on treatment.

Zimbabwe has approximately 700 000 of the

1,2 million HIV-positive on treatment under WHO guidelines.

Parirenyatwa’s remarks also come at a time when the public ARV-provision system is largely dependant on the international donor community for 75 percent of the drugs.

Owen Mugurungi, Aids and Tuberculosis Unit director in the Health ministry, recently told journalists that government was  ready to extend provision of single dose antiretroviral drugs to all the 1,3 million HIV positive people in Zimbabwe.

Parirenyatwa admitted nationwide provision of ARVs was a tall-order for an exchequer that is struggling to meet the civil servants’ wage bill.

“We need a lot of help from partners,” he said. “That’s why we are also saying schoolchildren should delay sexual debut, urging couples to be faithful and if you are tempted, then use condoms, they work.  If you are circumcised, don’t use it as a torch to light everywhere.”

Approximately 70 000 new HIV infections are recorded annually.

Apart from prolonging life, ARVs are now being used as a prevention strategy following findings indicating that the drugs can reduce HIV transmission by about 96 percent.

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