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With around one in seven adults living with HIV and an estimated 565 adults and children becoming infected every day – ‘roughly one person every three minutes’, Zimbabwe is experiencing one of the hardest AIDS epidemic in the world.
In a country with such tense political and social climate, it has been difficult to respond to the crises.

A widespread health worker strike and lack of resources led to the closure of health institutions. The boycott started in October due to poor salaries and working conditions, as well as Health Workers fear that the conditions of hospitals were endangering lives of patients and having a devastating effect on HIV/AIDS victims.

The collapse of vital healthcare and hyperinflation has made access to life-saving antiretroviral treatment increasingly impossible. With no medicines and broken equipment, healthcare workers helplessly watch as AIDS patients left without treatment die in their hundreds daily.

According to Global HIV/AIDS February 2nd 2009 news, estimates of around 400 people are dying of AIDS everyday in Zimbabwe. Dr Armon Siveregi, the representative of the Zimbabwe Health Workers’ Association disclosed that the current closure of the government run large urban hospitals is the “biggest scandal the health system has ever had to take” adding “today the situation is completely out of control”.

In January 2008, inflation was reported to have reached 100,000%. This economic decline is fuelling food shortage at a time when poverty is already rife, leading to a desperate situation where HIV/AIDS are in danger of being overlooked in the face of more immediate survival concerns.

As one Zimbabwean doctor explained, the reality is that AIDS can now be counted amongst such concerns – put simply, people are dying of AIDS before they can starve to death.

Due to the gravity of the situation, between 2002 and 2006, the population is estimated to have decreased by four million, infant mortality had doubled since 1990, average life expectancy for women, particularly affected by Zimbabwe’s AIDS epidemic, is 34- the lowest anywhere in the world. Officials from WHO admitted that since this figure is based on data collected two years ago, the real number maybe as low as 30.

According to UNICEF, Zimbabwe now has a world record of higher number of orphans as a result of parents dying from AIDS, in proportion to its population.
Health workers described AIDS as a silent tragedy; overshadowed internationally by the cholera emergency. However untreated HIV leaves people much more vulnerable to death from infection, therefore cholera is only part of the problem. The danger is neglecting HIV positive citizens, who account for one in five of the Zimbabwe population.

Eighty percent unemployment rate has caused the private sector healthcare to be out of reach for most Zimbabweans.
Enrolling new positive patients on antiretroviral treatment has ceased for
Physicians and Human Rights claims following a report that, not only are AIDS drugs being interrupted in Zimbabwe, but truck-loads of drugs are being stolen by ZANU-PF officials from the national pharmacy for sale on the black market.

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