HARARE — Zimbabwe is considered by many experts to be one of the nations most severely affected by AIDS in all of sub-Saharan Africa. Among the country’s 13 million people, it is estimated that roughly 15 percent of adults (more than one million people) lived with HIV in 2011. This number alone shows that AIDS in Zimbabwe is a very serious problem.
However, though these numbers are particularly high in the AIDS community, they have shown dramatic improvement when compared to Zimbabwe’s past.
Between 1996 and 1998, it was estimated that close to 30 percent of adults in Zimbabwe lived with HIV. Over the next 17 years, that number would be halved. A UNAIDS report attributes this to the programs implemented to educate the population on and prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS, as well as prevention of mother-to-child transmission and the utilization of treatment and support services.
The numbers only help to show the progress made against AIDS in Zimbabwe. In 2011, the number deaths averted by anti-AIDS programs was around 40,420. This number jumped all the way up to 62,300 by 2015. Infections averted was also accounted for, the number of Zimbabweans avoiding the infection estimated at 13,900, more than double the 2011 count.
AIDS also takes a major toll on children, especially in developing nations. When one or both parents lose their lives to the AIDS virus, many children have nowhere to go, ending up orphaned. In 2011, the number of children orphaned by the AIDS virus was about 1.2 million. As of 2015, that number has decreased dramatically to well below half of that number. The methods used to yield these drastic improvements on AIDS in Zimbabwe are also noted in the UNAIDS report.
Since there is no known cure for the HIV/AIDS virus, prevention of transmission is the key to defeating the illness. That is why education has been a primary tactic in the fight against AIDS. Several methods have been utilized to teach the people of Zimbabwe how to defend themselves against the virus, including integrated HIV services, door to door education, and the Sister to Sister and Brother to Brother initiative, which focuses on young people. All of these methods have been employed to reach more than 2.4 million Zimbabweans.
Safe sex is one of the main ways to help people prevent the spread of HIV. This has been a focal point for the movement to alleviate the Zimbabwean population of AIDS. About 110 million male condoms and 5.6 million female condoms were distributed to the people of Zimbabwe in 2015. Voluntary Medical Male Circumcision, one of the key components of the National Combination Prevention Strategy, is also used, with an aim of 80 percent of the male population.
There has also been a goal set to administer 90 percent of HIV patients with sustained antiretroviral therapy. Though a significant amount of external assistance helps address AIDS in Zimbabwe, the nation has done its own part as well. The AIDS Levy (or NAC) is Zimbabwe’s own financial investment, and shows public dedication to ending this dangerous virus.
According to a case study on the NAC, the Zimbabwean legislation calls for a 3 percent income tax for individuals and a 3 percent tax on profits of employers and trusts. The policy calls for at least 50 percent of the funds to be used for the purchase of antiretroviral medications. The remainder can be spent on HIV prevention, administrative and capital costs and monitoring or evaluation of the state of the illness.
After assessing 139 different sources and 20 key informants, the study concludes that the levy has “generated substantial resources,” “signals an important commitment by Zimbabweans” and is a “best practice for other nations to follow.”
But although Zimbabwe shows that it wants to do its part, around 70 percent of assistance still comes from external sources. It is for this reason that developed nations must do their part to maintain the progress made in Zimbabwe.
– Stephen Praytor