Zimbabwe plans huge increase in AIDS drugs rollout this year

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zimbwabweZimbabwe this year aims to more than triple the number of people on anti-retrovirals (ARVs) from the current level of 50,000, a senior official was quoted as saying.

"We hope that by the end of 2007, about 160,000 people would have been enrolled under the anti-retroviral programme and we are working hard to ensure that this happens," Owen Mugurungi, National co-ordinator of health ministry's HIV/AIDS programme, told the state-run Herald daily.

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

According to the government, at least 300,000 people need ARVs throughout the country. Doctors have said that people with a CD4 count of 200 or less should be on anti-retrovirals.

CD4s are immune system cells attacked by the AIDS virus.

Some of the drugs to be used will come from Zimbabwean pharmaceutical firm Varichem and the rest will be sourced by Unicef on behalf of the National Aids Council, Mugurungi said.

Zimbabwe channels three percent of individual income tax collections towards an Aids Levy aimed at fighting the pandemic.

Last month, Finance Minister Herbert Murerwa announced in his 2007 budget that 70 percent of the funds collected under the Aids Levy would be used to procure ARVs.

Two weeks ago, the United Nations Global Fund for HIV and Aids, Tuberculosis and Malaria gave Zimbabwe a 65-million-dollar grant to help fight these diseases.

Copyright © 2007 Agence France Presse

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