Humanitarian group Doctors Without Borders has urged Zimbabwe to do away with hospital consultation fees, especially for people living in rural areas, saying such fees get in the way of providing free, life-extending antiretroviral drugs to the HIV-positive.
Speaking in the Matabeleland capital of Bulawayo on Wednesday, Mari-Carmen Viñoles, head of Medecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders) in Zimbabwe, said her organization is providing free ARVs to more than 35,000 Zimbabweans.
But she said efforts to reach more people are hindered by high hospital fees ranging as high as US$35 a visit, out of the reach of many if not most rural inhabitants.
Viñoles said the government would save a lot of lives if it abolished the fees.
She says her organization is particular concerned about pregnant women who fail to get into programs that can save their lives and those of their unborn babies because high hospital fees result in many unsafe births taking place in homes.
TAAF Zimbabwe Director Emmanuel Gasa, which works with displaced persons who also must contend with an HIV-positive status, told VOA reporter Sandra Nyaira that the government must do more to get ARVs to people living with HIV.
Dr. Charles Sandy, head of the Health Ministry's HIV/AIDS unit, said the government has agreed to waive fees for patients so they can access vital medications, but hospitals in rural areas continue to charge the fees. He said the situation is being looked into.