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Zimbabwe HIV Infection Rate Eases Further as Health Sector Stages Recovery

Zimbabwe registered new progress in its fight against the HIV/AIDS pandemic with new data showing the prevalence or infection rate in youths and adults in the country down to an estimated 13.7% this year from some 15.6% in 2008 and 24.6% in 2003.

Health and Child Welfare Minister Henry Madzorera told VOA he was happy the rate had gone down but said more work is needed to bring the prevalence rate down to single digits.

Madzorera said the government is exploring new strategies to fight HIV/Aids, among them male circumcision which has been found to reduce infection rates among men.

The minister attributed the latest decline in the HIV prevalence rate to awareness programs which are also supported and operated by donor-backed organizations.

One recent Canadian study attributed the latest decline in prevalence rates to the economic hard times that deprived many of the means to purchase sex or conduct affairs.

National Aids Council Operations Director Raymond Yekeye said HIV activists are encouraged by the decline, but noted that gains have been lost in some other areas.

Dr. Douglas Gwatidzo, chairman of the Zimbabwe Association of Doctors for Human Rights, said behavioral change has helped greatly to bring the HIV prevalence rate down.

Meanwhile, Zimbabwe’s health delivery system has improved markedly since the formation of a national unity government in February, but many major health challenges remain for the country. A report by Deputy Prime Minister Thokozani Khupe’s office said this week that the health care sector, like the school system, remained weakened and underfunded.

Among other threats the country like others in Africa faces a potential pandemic of H1N1 or swine flu, the risk of a resurgence of cholera when the rainy season arrives, malaria in many areas, and of course the long-running HIV/AIDS pandemic still claiming lives.

For a checkup on Zimbabwe’s health care system, reporter Sandra Nyaira of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe spoke with Dr. Chiratidzo Ellen Ndlovu, a senior lecturer at the University of Zimbabwe’s College of Health Sciences, and Elias Mapendere, a senior programs officer with the Center for Community Development, both in Harare.

Dr. Ndlovu said hospitals in the country are now running better than they were before their effective collapse in 2008, helping those who can afford to pay for medical services.

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