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AIDS Activists: Zimbabwe AIDS Figures Skewed

HIV-AIDS activists are disputing the latest figures from the National AIDS Council (NAC) showing significant decreases in HIV-related deaths and new infections.

As VOA reported Sunday, the NAC said HIV-related deaths in Zimbabwe are down from 3,000 to 1,000 per week and new infection rates have also declined from an annual average of 66,000 to 44,000 which they credit to anti-retroviral treatment programs.

But activists say the numbers are skewed as hundreds of Zimbabweans suffering with the disease at home, are unable to access the necessary assistance and treatment.

NAC spokeswoman Madeline Dube said the numbers were achieved with programs targetting treatment and counseling.

Most of the deaths being recorded, according to Dube, are those of people defaulting on treatment.

Critics, however, charge that NAC has failed to include AIDS groups who work directly with communities.

AIDS activist, Emmanuel Gasa, of the AIDS and Arts Foundation told VOA that many Zimbabweans suffer at home and do not seek treatment in hospital because they cannot afford it.

Most people are sick in places like Bikita, Goromonzi and others and are failing to access even the public assistance provided by government, said Gasa.

NAC is pushing for more to be done to ensure the country gets to zero new infections, a move Gasa said should involve smaller organizations working at grassroots level.

He challenged the government and donor partners to allow groups to join in while rounding statistics to pinpoint locals who are not commonly counted.