Zimbabwe receives 65m dollars from UN to combat AIDS

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fund raisingZimbabwe has received a 65 million US dollar grant from the United Nations to bolster its fight against HIV and AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria, a government minister has said.

"We signed the agreement with them (the UN's Global Fund) yesterday," junior health minister Edwin Muguti told AFP Thursday.

"These funds will be used to increase our HIV and AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis programme. We also hope to reintroduce the fixed drug combination of anti-tuberculosis drugs using these funds."

Zimbabwe is one of the countries hardest hit by the HIV and AIDS pandemic with at least 3,000 people dying weekly from AIDS-related illness -- or about one person every three minutes -- according to the National AIDS Council.

The country has also experienced an upsurge in number of TB cases linking to HIV and AIDS.

At least 300,000 people were in need of anti-retroviral drugs, adding that currently 50,000 people were on treatment, he said, although the HIV prevalence rate has dropped from 24.6 percent in 2003, to 20.1 percent in 2005 and about 18.1 percent this year.

"Our hope is to make these anti-retroviral drugs available to everyone in need of them by 2010," Muguti said.

Muguti said even after receiving the grant the health ministry, plagued by chronic shortages of drugs and equipment and critical understaffing, would still need more money.

Two weeks ago the ministry signed another 40 million US dollars deal with Britain, Sweden, Ireland, Norway and the United Nations agencies in the counrty to launch new HIV/AIDS projects.

The programme in which Britain, Norway, Ireland and Sweden would provide money while UN agencies would avail technical support, is set to run for the next three years.

source - AFP