|Donors pledge to supply ARVs|
|Saturday, 04 August 2012 19:15|
Lulu Brenda Harris
Sunday Health CorrespondentTHE United Kingdom government’s Department for International Development (DFID), and the United States’ President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), announced a partnership to expand access to anti-retroviral treatment in Zimbabwe but the Government said it would only rejoice when the agreement had been formally put on paper.
This year alone, Zimbabwe has a shortfall of almost US$10 million needed to purchase ARVs for both adults and children while the adult HIV prevalence stands at 15 percent, with an estimated 600 000 adults and children only eligible for treatment.
Approximately DFID and PEPFAR are covering 25 percent of this ARV need as the Government is battling to fully provide ARVs while the most affected are persons living in the rural areas where hospitals do not have these drugs at all while some patients are forced to travel long distances just to access these pills.
Subsequently, DFID and PEPFAR announced a US$28 million pledge to provide adult and pediatric ARVs that would be accessed over a four-year period during the International Aids conference held in Washington, US last week.
This pledge is said to support and advances a nearly decade-long collaboration between the UK and US to provide cost-effective, quality ARVs to Zimbabwe.
In a Press statement, the funding from DFID will be programmed via the PEPFAR’s supply chain infrastructure and leverages existing pooled procurement agreements.
“The first shipment of these life-saving ARVs is scheduled to arrive in Zimbabwe in August 2012. The treatments will be procured over a four-year period that is 2012 to 2015,” read the statement.
In an interview with Sunday News, Minister of Health and Child Welfare, Dr Henry Madzorera, said he had little knowledge about this information but was still waiting for official communication from officials who had attended the Washington conference.
“I’ve not received any news yet, we are still waiting for those who went to the conference but the bottom line is as a country we are always looking for funding to supply ARVs to the people. If there is a pledge from DFID and PEPFAR we will be extremely pleased because that will seal and complement our efforts,” he said.
However, Dr Madzorera said the Government would still wait for the official communiqué from the relevant DFID and PEPFAR authorities because not everything said in a public forum would come to pass.
“The best thing is to wait for a signed agreement, which as I said before we will be happy if it actually happens,” he said.
But a DFID official based in the UK, Ms Barbara Hewitt, said the Government was fully informed about this support for ARV procurement and the information has been incorporated into the national procurement schedules.
She, however, sung praises to Zimbabwe’s ongoing efforts against HIV and Aids.
“Zimbabwe is one of the countries to record a decline in HIV prevalence with HIV prevalence declining to 14 percent. This illustrates significant progress and efforts that are ongoing to further reduce the number of new infections and further scale up access to ARVs,” she said.
Ms Hewitt said through DFID, the UK supported Zimbabwe’s ongoing efforts to implement and scale up the interventions that are clearly working such as male circumcision and ARVs.
Nevertheless, DFID and PEPFAR have been working closely in Zimbabwe since 2003 on HIV-related programmes and on strengthening the health commodities supply and distribution system.
Together DFID and PEPFAR have jointly supported distribution of condoms, contraceptives, PMTCT commodities, and HIV diagnostics to over 1 500 health facilities nationwide in order to prevent the spread of the virus.
“The distribution system (Delivery Truck Topping Up) is implemented by the Zimbabwe National Family Planning Council, Ministry of Health and Child Welfare and NatPharm (Central Medical Stores) and has insured regular availability of condoms at all facilities from an average 20 percent to below two percent, and helped maintain regular availability of other family planning commodities below five percent,” read the statement.