Zimbabwe has Aids in its sights

HARARE - Zimbabwe this year aims to more than triple the number of HIV-positive people being treated with antiretroviral drugs, a senior official was quoted as saying yesterday.

HARARE - Zimbabwe this year aims to more than triple the number of HIV-positive people being treated with antiretroviral drugs, a senior official was quoted as saying yesterday.

Only about 50000 are being treated with the drugs currently.

"We hope that by the end of this year about 160000 people will have been enrolled in the antiretrovirals programme and we are working hard to ensure that this happens," Owen Mugurungi, national coordinator of the health ministry's HIV-Aids programme, told the state-run Herald daily newspaper.

About 18percent of the country's 12million people are HIV-positive.

According to the government, at least 300000 people need antiretrovirals throughout the country. Doctors have said that people with a CD4 count of 200 or less should be on antiretrovirals.

CD4s are immune-system cells that are attacked by the Aids virus.

Some of the drugs to be used will be made by the Zimbabwean pharmaceutical company Varichem. The rest will be bought by Unicef on behalf of the National Aids Council, Mugurungi said.

Zimbabwe channels 3percent of income tax to an Aids-fighting levy. Last month Finance Minister Herbert Murerwa announced in his 2007 budget speech that 70percent of the Aids levy would be used to get antiretrovirals.

Two weeks ago the UN's Global Fund for HIV and Aids, Tuberculosis and Malaria gave Zimbabwe R455million.- Sapa-AFP

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