File photo: Reuters/Philimon Bulawayo

Duban - The fall of the Zimbabwean dollar in 2009 boosted the Zimbabwean government’s ability to make funding available in the fight against the HIV/AIDS epidemic.

Dr Angela Mushavi, Zimbabwe’s leading official in charge of that country’s programme to combat mother-to-child transmission of the disease, said: “In 2009 we dollarised our economy. Our money is stable and does not devalue.”

Mushavi was speaking at the International AIDS Conference 2016 in Durban.

Three percent of the tax paid by every Zimbabwean in informal employment was apportioned as an AIDS levy to the country’s National Aids Trust Fund.

Mushavi said income earned annually from the AIDS levy was in the region of $40 million dollars annually (R580 million).

“It really is an innovative way of trying to finance our own response [to the AIDS epidemic],” she said.

Mushavi said that of the country’s 13 million people, about 10 percent were HIV positive and that about 900 000 were receiving antiretroviral treatment funded by the National Aids Trust Fund, as well as funding received from international donors.

She said that the country was pushing for the prevention of the spread of the disease.

“Our infection rate is going down. Zimbabwe has the highest per capita condom use in the world.”

She said that the country’s infection rate had declined and currently stood at 0,84 percent, or about 50 000 new infections annually. “We will treat. But it is infection rates that need to come down. We need to close the tap on new infections and this is done through prevention.”

She said the there was a major drive to prevent mother-to-child transmission, as well as changing the sexual behaviour of Zimbabweans. She said the country was also extensively promoting the use of condoms as well as doing research on Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (commonly known as PrEP) – a prescription drug that helps to prevent the prescription of HIV.

Mushavi said that conversations about sex and the spread of the disease was happening in the country’s older age groups.

“The worry is that conversation [about sex and AIDS] is not as frank as it should be with the young. We are leaving the young behind.”

Mushavi warned that this had the potential to undo Zimbabwe’s battle to eliminate the disease.

African News Agency