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Revision Of U.S. AIDS Strategy Supported By Zimbabwean Experts

Zimbabweans involved in fighting HIV/AIDS say they would welcome a policy shift by the U.S. President's Emergency Plan For AIDS Relief, or PEPFAR, so as to permit the shifting of funds to pragmatic means of infection prevention and drug treatment from programs promoting abstinence, to which a third of funds are now dedicated.

PEPFAR has been an important source of funding for developing countries struggling to contain the HIV/AIDS pandemic and help those infected with HIV or ill with AIDS. But the program has come under fire for its emphasis on abstinence and being faithful in marriage and relationships, an approach critics have described as impractical.

Zimbabwe is not one of 15 PEPFAR focus countries, but it does receive a substantial amount of funding from the program and has been subject to PEPFAR restrictions.

A recent report from the Institute of Medicine and the National Research Council found that congressional or administration restrictions on the use of funds were hampering efforts to limit the spread of the HIV/AIDS pandemic. U.S. law requires countries that receive PEPFAR funds to spend a third on abstinence-until-marriage programs.

Critics say PEPFAR has put too much emphasis on the first two components of the so-called "ABC" strategy advocating abstinence, being faithful and using condoms.

Reporter Ndimyake Mwakalyele of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe discussed the ABC debate with two Zimbabean experts: researcher Noah Taruberekera of Population Services International, and Dr. Frank Guni, a Washington-based independent consultant on HIV/AIDS and other public health issues.

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