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Extended Political Turmoil Puts Zimbabwe's HIV/AIDS Gains At Risk

Zimbabwean non-governmental organizations focused on HIV/AIDS say their treatment and support programs aimed at people struggling to live with with HIV/AIDS remain significantly scaled back despite government promises to allow them to resume such activities.

Representatives of two NGOs spoke with VOA on condition of anonymity, saying that a state ban on NGO distribution of humanitarian aid has obliged them to stop distributing food aid meant for people living with HIV/AIDS, despite recent assurances from Health Minister David Parirenyatwa that the government would lift the ban where HIV/AIDS was concerned.

Director Itai Rusike of the Community Working Group on Health said it is hard to determine if the death rate has gone up due to the government ban, as most of the statistics on AIDS-related deaths are maintained by physicians in government employ.

He added that as most of those who cannot afford to provide for their own care are dying at home, it would be difficult in any case to tabulate accurate fatality data.

Rusike told reporter Carole Gombakomba of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that progress in fighting AIDS through state programs that reduced the national HIV prevalence rate and death rate could be lost due to the extended political crisis in the country.

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