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CDC HIV/AIDS/Viral Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update
ZIMBABWE; MOZAMBIQUE: Zimbabweans Get Life-Saving AIDS Drugs
Florence Panoussian
March 7, 2008
Agence France Presse (03.02.08) - Friday, March 07, 2008

Mozambican officials say Zimbabweans are crossing into the country to obtain antiretrovirals (ARVs). Hyperinflation and the lack of food and drugs in Zimbabwe are widely blamed on a government land redistribution scheme that has virtually destroyed commercial agriculture and frightened away foreign investors.

"We walked for a day in the mountains," said one girl, 17, recounting the six-mile hike to Mozambique with her HIV- positive brothers, ages 13 and 8. "It was tough above all for my brothers." Orphaned in 2006, the children lived with their grandmother until she turned them out in January. "My grandmother chased us away," the girl said. "She was afraid of the boys because they are sick. She was scared to touch them, even to cook for them." The brothers received ARVs in Zimbabwe once before, but government-sponsored treatment is difficult to access, and private ARVs are too expensive. So the children crossed into the Mozambican province of Manica to find treatment.

"I feel better now," said the older boy, whose body is covered with a severe rash. "It's not so bad as before." "Hundreds of Zimbabweans come here to get AIDS treatment that Mozambique provides free," said Aarao Uaquico, local coordinator of the national council against AIDS. "We accommodate all patients without discriminating," said Marilia Pugas, senior provincial doctor.

The number of HIV/AIDS patients receiving free ARVs in Mozambique has risen from 7,000 in 2005 to more than 100,002 today. The treatment's annual price per patient is $50, said Maurico Cysne, the Mozambican UNAIDS representative. "It is extraordinary," Cysne said of the progress being made. "But the costs are enormous."