Zambian Government Taking ‘Urgent Steps’ To Address HIV/AIDS Epidemic
The Zambian government, under new President Levy Mwanawasa, is taking "urgent steps" to fight the nation's HIV/AIDS epidemic, after almost 20 years of "struggling against the disease with little effect," the New York Times reports. Health experts believe that Zambia -- where nearly one in five adults is HIV-positive -- has the sixth-worst AIDS epidemic in the world. According to a United Nations report, fewer than 1% of the estimated 200,000 or more HIV-positive people in Zambia who need antiretroviral medications has access to them. The government currently provides the drugs for a minimal fee to about 600 people, and some people buy the medicines through local pharmacies at market rates. The government plans to expand its own treatment program using $135 million in five-year grants from the World Bank and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria in order to provide the drugs to about 20,000 to 30,000 HIV-positive people. However, officials cannot say when access to treatment will be widespread. Until recently, many people blamed the government for a lack of political will and funding for the fight against AIDS. "We were asleep," Brian Chituwo, the new health minister, said, adding, "We had a leadership in the past 10 years where there was total denial from the highest office. It's like we are just waking up now and saying: 'Hey! What has happened?'" Vice President Nevers Mumba said, "The problem is humongous. We are definitely in a very big hurry, but we really cannot solve it overnight" (LaFraniere, New York Times, 10/11).This is part of the Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.