Home demolition victims denied ARVs

Garikai Chaunza, CNS Correspondent, Zimbabwe 
(First published in New Zimbabwe)
Victims of Epworth housing demolitions are being denied HIV/AIDS treatment by local health authorities because they do not have medical records which they claim were destroyed during the forced evictions. Some victims, who are still residing at their dilapidated houses following a High Court injunction banning their eviction, said they have gone for almost a month without accessing anti-retroviral drugs.

People living with HIV are mandated to take medication once every day and skipping treatment puts them in danger of losing their lives. A 37 year Diana Muchabaiwa (not real name) who has been living with HIV for the past seven years said she has gone for three weeks without medication.

“My tablets and my hospital cards were destroyed by the municipal police when they were evicting us in September. They did not give us the chance to take out our belongings,” said Muchabaiwa.

She added: “I have been going to Epworth Polyclinic trying to explain to them my situation but they said I should bring an affidavit explaining my position. I went to the police and explained my situation and they said they were not going to help because I was an illegal settler.” Takavarasha Mudhombiro said he, together with wife who is also HIV positive, had met with the similar fate.

Another woman, Emilia Nyamutumbuka, said: “I have been relying on ARVs which I was given by my brother who lives in Budiriro after I had told him that I was being denied access to them here because I lost my clinical records to the demolitions. Now he is saying that his supply is running out and I do not know what to do.” Health officials demand clinical records from AIDS patients for them to ascertain what type of treatment to administer. The records help to monitor and assess the stage of illness the patient is at so that they administer the correct and accurate medication.

Head of AIDS and TB unit in the Ministry of Health and Child Care Dr Owen Mugurungi said: “We have always said these actions (demolitions) have an impact on human life.” He added: “I am not sure how far we have harmonised the laws and how far the new constitution is being implemented but we know we have a new constitution which provides for the right to health, and based on that those people should access treatment and we do not condone if it’s our health officials or whoever; they should not ever deny someone treatment.”

The AIDS patients said health officials and the police were conniving to deny them access to ARVs saying they were “illegal settlers.” But Dr Mugurungi insisted that people should be given access to treatment without discrimination. He appealed to health officials and organisations of people living with HIV/AIDS to assist in the matter and ensure people get treatment. Human rights activist Edmore Matonhodze urged the government to take action to avert a disaster saying denying people access to treatment was “gross” violation of human rights abuse.

(First published in News Zimbabwe)

Garikai Chaunza, Citizen News Service - CNS
23 December 2014