The Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights issued a report Tuesday saying nurses in government hospitals have been stealing antiretroviral drugs and selling them into the black market for distribution through "backyard pharmacies," making it more difficult for those living with HIV to legitimately access such critical pharmaceuticals.
In a report entitled “Corruption Burns Universal Access" the non-governmental organization also charged that people living with HIV are obliged bribe nurses in order to obtain the life prolonging drugs. Zimbabwe has made significant gains in the fight against HIV/AIDS, but it is struggling to make antiretroviral drugs universally available.
Lawyers for Human Rights Project Officer Bhekezela Maponda told VOA Studio 7 reporter Sandra Nyaira that nurses might be driven by the need to supplement salaries, as they only make US$150-US$250 a month.Staff shortages and the lack of a code of ethics in hospitals have been blamed as causes of illicit traffic in pharmaceuticals.
ZimRights Executive Director Okay Machisa urged the government to monitor all health workers, arguing that the diversion of life-extending drugs seriously violates the human rights of those living with HIV.
Though the report said the diversion of drugs has occurred recently, Health Minister Henry Madzorera said such theft was a problem in the more distant past and was halted when the unity government was formed in early 2009.