October 24, 2005

Zimbabwe is to spend ZWD30bn (US$1.2mn) providing ARV treatments for public health facilities in an attempt to combat the growing HIV/AIDS crisis in the country. However, local observers have claimed that the new measures will have a limited impact as stocks of locally produced treatments are critically low.

With the country in economic crisis and inflation expected to reach around 700%, there is a scarcity of foreign currency required to import the raw materials needed for ARV production. The Ministry of Health is currently negotiating with the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe in order to gain priority for the pharmaceutical industry when allocating foreign currency.

The other roadblock to this new initiative is the severe shortage of qualified manpower. Zimbabwe has already lost around 60% of its healthcare workers to developed countries, including South Africa. The government also has insufficient funds to pay the wages for doctors and nurses still employed in the country, and strikes are now frequent. To impact matters further, the cost of basic treatments such as cough syrups, analgesics etc. have risen beyond the means of average Zimbabweans.