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Millions missing out on life-saving HIV drugs

November 28, 2008

Millions missing out on life-saving HIV drugs, New Zealand aid agency says

New antiretroviral drugs mean an HIV diagnosis is not the death sentence it once was for New Zealanders with HIV but access to the drugs is a dream to millions in developing countries.

December 1 is World Aids Day, which remembers the pandemic that has led to over 25 million deaths and the estimated 33m currently living with HIV worldwide.

UNAIDS says that in 2007 sub-Saharan Africa accounted for almost a third of all new HIV infections and AIDS-related deaths globally, with national adult HIV prevalence exceeding 15 percent in eight southern African countries, including Zimbabwe.

Although the price of antiretroviral therapy has fallen significantly in recent years, it is still too expensive in the developing world. The healthcare services needed to deliver antiretrovirals in those countries is severely lacking.

In Zimbabwe, where the health system has collapsed, the people suffer one of the world’s worst AIDS epidemics.

Zimbabwean Mandla Akhe Dube, who works for New Zealand aid agency Christian World Service, says the AIDS epidemic in his ruined country is like one tsunami on top of another and people with HIV and AIDS are suffering the most. “Poverty is an incubator for HIV AIDS. We cannot get rid of it in isolation.” To add insult to injury, anti-retrovirals had to be taken with food. About four million Zimbabweans were starving or relied on remittances from abroad to stay alive, Dube said.

The former leader of southern Africa’s Anglican Church, Archbishop Njongo Ndungane said on Friday that AIDS was not a punishment from God but a preventable medical condition.


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