Several ministers in Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe's government and other senior ruling Zanu-PF party and government officials who are infected with HIV have been accused of grabbing anti-Aids drugs meant for public hospitals.

Quoting unnamed authoritative sources, Zimbabwe's privately owned publication, ZimOnline, said top officials were intercepting the drugs - which are either donated or bought with tax money - at the state-run National Aids Council before they are distributed to state hospitals for dispensing to the public. The council runs the government's national anti-Aids policy and ARV supply programme.

ZimOnline said the list of people involved included cabinet ministers, members of Zanu-PF's inner politburo committee, police and military officials, as well as some close relatives and friends of the politicians and officials. They are all said to be infected by HIV and need the drugs for their own use.

"The National Aids Council just hands over the drugs (to top officials). It has become so normal that it is kind of semi-officialised," one source, who refused to be named for fear of reprisals, told ZimOnline.