HIV has claimed 500,000 lives, government official

Garikai Chaunza, CNS Correspondent, Zimbabwe
(First published in New Zimbabwe
At least half a million Zimbabweans have died of HIV/AIDS related illnesses over the past 16 years, a senior government health official has said. The death toll has however ebbed significantly over the years as access to treatment has improved. “We estimate that more than half a million people have died of HIV related infections or conditions,” the head of the HIV and TB  unit in the Ministry of Health and Child Care, Dr Owen Mugurungi, told

“Obviously if we now see a stabilisation (and the) impact of our treatment programme is there. People are no longer dying as much as they were. “There are less and less people dying because we are putting those affected on treatment and it is actually a good impact.”

Zimbabwe has managed to reduce its HIV prevalence from 27% in 1997 to 15%. Some 1.3 million people are leaving with HIV, 187,000 being children under the age of 15 years and only half of those infected are receiving anti-retroviral treatment. Dr Mugurungi said resource constraints continued to cripple HIV management in the country.

“We managed to put 750,000 people on ARV by September of this year and missed our target of 840,000 owing to resource constraints, but this is not bad a figure to talk about,” he said. “I want to appeal to our development partners who have been helping us to continue doing so. We are going to start the New Year with a $100 million deficit and it is our hope that we will get more funding from our traditional partners.”

Zimbabwe depends on donors for HIV funding as well as the AIDS levy, a tax deducted from formal workers’ salaries. Dr Mugurungi encouraged people to get tested so that they can be put on treatment early. “Only 51% of Zimbabweans have been tested living a wide gap of those who are yet to be tested,” he said.

“One secret I want to share with you is that everyone has an HIV status. The status is either you are positive or you are negative. “Only those who have gone for testing and I mean people living with HIV are the only ones who know their status because they have been tested.”

(First published in New Zimbabwe

Garikai Chaunza, Citizen News Service - CNS 
23 December 2014