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Last Updated: Wednesday, 3 May 2006, 13:50 GMT 14:50 UK
Zimbabwe faces Aids drug shortage
An orphan in Harare, Zimbabwe
Almost one in three children in Zimbabwe are now orphaned having lost at least one parent to HIV/Aids
Zimbabwe is running out of drugs to treat Aids, the state-run Herald newspaper reports.

The country has less than one month's supply of anti-retroviral (ARV) drugs for the 20,000 people who receive them.

The National Pharmaceutical Company blamed the shortage on a foreign currency crisis. Interrupting a course of ARVs can cause serious illness.

About 20% of Zimbabweans aged from 15 to 49 are infected with HIV, and 3,000 die of Aids-related illness weekly.

"We understand that drugs are competing with other items like fuel for foreign currency but the picture is not encouraging," National Pharmaceutical Company head Charles Mwaramba told The Herald.

"We have been trying to contact the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe for decent amounts of foreign currency but that has not been successful," he added.


The central bank gave the company US$106,000 to import drugs from January to March this year, The Herald reported.

Mr Mwaramba told the paper $7.4m was required.

The effectiveness of ARV treatment depends on the patient following the programme of medication carefully, and failure to take the drugs on time can cause serious illness.

A severe foreign currency shortage has made basic food items such as maize meal and cooking oil hard to obtain in Zimbabwe.

In recent years, rural health services have introduced ox-drawn ambulances in an effort to deal with fuel shortages.

Zimbabwe has the highest annual rate of inflation in the world at more than 900%, and the lowest life expectancy, at less than 40.

According to a UN-commissioned survey last year, HIV infection rates in Zimbabwe are on the decline, falling by almost 5% in two years, which was attributed to changing sexual behaviour and condom use.

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