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Zimbabwe HIV/AIDS Activists Concerned ARV Drive May Be Faltering

HIV/AIDS activists in Zimbabwe are expressing concern that the country may fall short of its goal of providing life-saving antiretroviral drug therapy to an additional 100,000 people this year, following recent comments by the minister of health.

The government has set a target of providing 160,000 people with ARV drug therapy by the end of 2007 compared with around 50,000 people currently. It has been estimated that a half million Zimbabweans or more need such treatment.

Activists expressed discouragement at remarks attributed to Health Minister David Parirenyatwa to the effect that the country faced difficult challenges to increasing ARV access because of the high cost of the drugs, among other factors.

Activists said a failure to expand ARV therapy programs could discourage people from seeking voluntary testing and counseling if their treatment options are limited.

Health Ministry Specialist Physician Tapiwanashe Gwakura said the government is equally concerned about the drug shortages, but that its efforts to expand treatment programs have been frustrated by a lack of funding for pharmaceuticals.

For perspective on the challenges facing the government and those battling HIV/AIDS, reporter Ndimyake Mwakalyele of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe interviewed activists Tapiwanashe Kujinga, chairman of Zimbabwe Activists on HIV and AIDS, and Chitiga Mbanje, training coordinator for The Center, a Harare AIDS care facility.

Mbanje said the situation now facing HIV-positive Zimbabweans is tragic.

More reports from VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe...