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Half Of Zimbabweans Needing HIV Antiretroviral Drug Therapy Now Getting It

The Zimbabwe National Statistics Agency is embarking on a nationwide demographic and health survey during which households will be asked to provide blood samples to measure the HIV prevalence rate

Zimbabwe's National Aids Council says half of those needing antiretroviral drug therapy to keep HIV infection from progressing to AIDS are now getting such treatment - though it added that much more needs to be done to provide universal access to ARVs.

National Aids Council Programs Director Raymond Yekeye said 350,000 people are now benefiting from antiretroviral drug therapy programs in the country.

He said the NAC and its partners are now moving to hit an 80 percent target by 2015 in line with World Health Organization guidelines on treatment access.

Yekeye told VOA Studio 7 reporter Sandra Nyaira that Zimbabwean health authorities will be scaling up treatment programs and training health workers on the administration of ARV drug therapy so that more people can obtain access to the regimen.

In a related development, the Zimbabwe National Statistics Agency or ZimStats is soon to embark on a nationwide demographic and health survey for 2011 which will include questions on health topics icluding family planning and disease prevention.

During this year's survey ZimStat will also attempt to mobilize households to voluntarily give blood samples allowing health agencies to determine the HIV prevalence rate.

Zimbabwe's HIV prevalence rate was last estimated at about 10 percent.

Non-governmental organizations including the United Nations Children’s Fund or UNICEF will be helping ZimStat conduct the survey. Officials said bloos samples will be drawn on a voluntary basis and the privacy of individuals will be protected in the process.

Justice AIDS Trust Projects Coordinator Albert Chambati told reporter Tatenda Gumbo that maintaining confidentiality will be critical to the success of the survey.