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AIDS Activists Welcome Harare Pledge To Boost Access To Drugs

Zimbabwean AIDS activists said Tuesday that although they are pleased to hear that the government hopes this year to more than double the number of people receiving antiretroviral treatment for the deadly disease, much more needs to be done.

The state-controlled Herald newspaper quoted the national coordinator for HIV-AIDS and tuberculosis, Owen Mugurungi, as saying health officials hope to put 160,000 people on ARV drug therapy by year's end. Currently there are just under 50,000 people receiving such treatment, short of the official target of 90,000.

Lynde Francis, executive director of The Center, an AIDS assistance facility in Harare, said the government understands it must step up treatment as well as prevention.

But Francis told reporter Ndimyake Mwakalyelye of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that she believes the number of Zimbabweans who need antiretrovirals is much higher than the 300,000 estimated by the government - in fact closer to 500,000.

She says the low estimate reflects official reliance on data derived from those tested for the AIDS virus, whereas a large number of Zimbabweans remain untested.

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