HARARE – About one million people have died since the HIV and Aids pandemic started wreaking havoc in Zimbabwe in 1985, a government official has said.
Director of Aids and Tuberculosis Unit in the Health and Child Care ministry, Owen Mugurungi, said although government has worked hard to stabilise the effects of the disease, it is sad that so many lives have been lost.
“In fact since we started experiencing the epidemic we believe that so far close to a million people have died. Remember this country at one point had 2,6 million people with HIV. We are now at 1,3 million. Simple arithmetic will tell you that some are missing, where are they?” Mugurungi said at a media forum organised by Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights recently.
“The 500 000 is what we always put when we refer to the period before treatment was available but the bottom line is we know that close to a million people have since died because of HIV-related illnesses.
“However, through our national HIV strategy, we have managed to reduce transmission and keep those infected alive”.
Zimbabwe has at least 1,3 million people living with HIV. Mugurungi said 1,2 million should be on treatment according to the new World Health Guidelines but currently 750 000 are accessing the life-prolonging anti-retro viral drugs (ARVs).
The HIV response is currently guided by a five-year Zimbabwe National HIV and Aids Strategic Plan wound up next year and is working towards achieving zero new infections, zero discrimination and zero Aids-related deaths by 2015 through effectively administering anti-retroviral therapy and support programmes.
Through successive response policies, the number of people dying from HIV and Aids-related illnesses dropped from 170 000 in 2003 to about 60 000 last year.
New HIV infections are estimated to be standing at 70 000 annually.
He said, apart from funding gaps, the HIV response strategy is still being affected by Zimbabweans’ fear of getting tested.
“For next year we have set ourselves a target of making sure that close to 2,5 million Zimbabweans are tested, it is a huge challenge”.