Integrated Regional Information Networks - February 3, 2012
HARARE, 3 February 2012 (PlusNews) - With global funding for
HIV/AIDS on the decline, Zimbabwe's innovative AIDS levy - a 3
percent tax on income - has become a promising source of funding
for the country, with a dramatic increase in revenue collected in
the past two years.
The levy was introduced in 1999 to compensate for declining donor
support, but low salaries and the poor performance of industry
meant not enough money had been collected - until recently. In
its 2010 report on Zimbabwe's progress in implementing the
Declaration of Commitment on HIV/AIDS, adopted by the General
Assembly in 2001, the government admitted the levy was
"essentially non-existent in 2007-2008 due to economic challenges
the country was facing".
According to the organization's recently published audited
financial statements for the year ending 31 December 2010, a
total of US$20.5 million was collected in 2010 against $5.7
million the previous year.
Murombedzi Kuchera, chairman of the National AIDS Council Board,
attributed the increase to improved revenue flows owing to
improved political and economic stability in the country, which
has created more jobs in the formal sector and improved tax
remittances. Zimbabwe's economy has witnessed steady growth
following the formation of the coalition government of Prime
Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and President Robert Mugabe in 2009.
"The 259 percent increase in the collections was mainly through
the increased capacity utilization by industry and commerce,"
Kuchera said in his statement.
Although the revenue figures for 2011 have not yet been audited,
the National AIDS Council estimates it collected about $25
million. However, the exact figure will be confirmed after the
audit by the Comptroller and Auditor-General, which audits all
the finances of parastatals, at the end of 2012.
"The AIDS Levy is certainly proving to be a good source of
funding for the country's HIV and AIDS response," National AIDS
Council information and communication officer Orirando Manwere
"Our projections are that for 2012, with the growing economic
stability in the country, we will collect more than $30 million
through the funds and even more in 2013. However, this is all
largely dependent on economic growth," he added.
Although 347,000 people are on antiretroviral (ARV) treatment in
the country, another 600,000 need the medication. The treatment
gap widened after Zimbabwe adopted the new World Health
Organization guidelines that recommend starting treatment
The AIDS levy contributed almost a quarter of the money to
purchase ARVs, while 76 percent of the treatment programme was
financed by international donors such as the Global Fund to fight
AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria and the UK Department for
But the country - one of the hardest hit by HIV/AIDS - still
needs a lot more funding to cover the "worrying" treatment gap,
cautioned HIV/AIDS activist Stanley Takaona.
"Many people are dying because they cannot access treatment.
Zimbabweans are playing their part to take care of their own by
contributing to the AIDS Levy but this is not enough. Government
must allocate funds from the fiscus to fund the HIV/AIDS
response; it's their responsibility," he said.
Kumbirai Mafunda, spokesperson for the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human
Rights, warned against complacency. "Yes, the increase in the
AIDS Levy is remarkable but we all know it's not enough... now
government has to increase budget allocations to the health