The National Aids Council is urging Government to address foreign currency shortages that have resulted in the scarcity of second-line anti-retroviral drugs.
Speaking during the World Aids Day commemorations at White City stadium in Bulawayo last Friday, NAC board chairperson Dr Evaristo Marowa said the shortage of second-line ARVs was a direct result of foreign currency shortages. Dr Marowa said Government should prioritise the health sector, particularly the procurement of drugs that are not locally available, in the allocation of foreign currency.
"In line with Government policy, the NAC allocates 50 percent of the Aids levy towards treatment. While resources have been set aside for this and other HIV and Aids commodities, as well as tools of the trade, the actual procurement has been severely affected by the ongoing foreign currency shortages.
"Recently, the media has reported about the shortage of second-line ARVs, which is a direct result of the shortages of foreign currency. I therefore would want to appeal to the authorities to increase foreign currency allocations for the procurement of ARVs and related commodities," he said.
Dr Marowa said the country had recorded a significant drop in the number of new infections.
"We are aware that through robust and consented multi-sectoral and multi-disciplinary interventions that combine prevention and treatment, Zimbabwe has recorded significant progress in curbing new HIV infections in the past nine years, whereby there has been a decline of 66 percent from 1,42 percent to 0,48 percent. Through this and other achievements, the country has earned itself recognition as one of the global leaders in HIV prevention," he said.
Dr Marowa said mother-to-child transmission of HIV has dropped to 5,8 percent, which is one percentage point shy of reaching the Elimination of Mother-to-Child Transmission (EMTCT) global target of less than five percent.
"This has been due to a highly successful national programme of EMTCT that is being led by the Ministry of Health and Child Care with support and in collaboration with development partners, civil society and communities.
The Ministry of Health and Child Care launched a comprehensive Strategy for the Elimination of Mother-to-Child Transmission of HIV and Syphilis for the period 2018 to 2022 guided by the Start Free, Aids Free and Aids Free Framework.
"That new HIV infections in Zimbabwe have been reduced from 71 000 in 2009 to 31 700 in 2017 is highly remarkable and impressive. However, despite this success story, you will agree with me that 31 700 new HIV infections are still unacceptably too high and, as such, there is no room for complacency in any way and in any form," he said.