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Zimbabweans Turn to Cheaper Herbal Remedies As AIDS Drug Costs Soar

Like every other necessity of life in Zimbabwe, life-saving antiretroviral drugs have soared in price, leading many who cannot afford them to turn to herbal treatments.

HIV/AIDS activists say the rising cost of ARVs despite government-ordered price freezes has put the lives of many HIV-positive individuals on the line. They estimate that staying on triple-combination ARV therapy for one month now costs up as much as Z$25 million (US$75) compared with about Z$12 million two months ago.

Thus some people living with HIV/AIDS say they have stopped taking ARVs in favor of the cheaper traditional Gundamiti herb, which costs under Z$2 million a month.

Though some medical doctors express skepticism as to the effectiveness of the herbal concoction, some people living with HIV who are taking the herbal treatment say their CD4 count – reflecting immune system strength - has gone up markedly.

Program Officer Martha Tholanah of the Zimbabwe AIDS Network reporter Carole Gombakomba of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that the rising cost of ARVs stands to have a serious negative impact on the lives of those living with HIV/AIDS.

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