Over 600,000 Zimbabweans Have Full-Blown HIV/AIDS

More than 600,000 Zimbabweans have AIDS, while about 2.1 million others are currently living with HIV, Cabinet member and Minister of Health and Child Welfare Dr. David Parirenyatwa said Friday. An estimated 26 percent of the adult population is infected with HIV, he added, but about 90 percent do not know their HIV status. Speaking at the launch of an AIDS testing center in the resort town of Victoria Falls, Parirenyatwa said the impact of HIV was fast eroding national achievements in the health sector and putting enormous strain on already over- stretched financial resources.

"The demand for care for these people will be enormous; the impact on our economy as the young and experienced workers die is damaging," Parirenyatwa said at the launch of Voluntary Counseling and Testing Center at Chinotimba Clinic. "The premature deaths of young and middle-aged adults are adversely affecting the socioeconomic base of our planned development, thus creating serious challenges for our nation," he said. Zimbabwe's government, in conjunction with the United States Agency for International Development, is funding the project. Population Services International is the implementing partner.

US Ambassador Joseph Sullivan said: "Drawing on the best practices underway in Zimbabwe and around the world, the center will provide high-quality service that is professional, confident and affordable." He said despite the high infection rate, the majority of Zimbabweans were AIDS-free and urged them to maintain that status. "Those who are already infected should be motivated to change their behavior to avoid acquiring new infections by different strains of [HIV] and to prevent spreading the infection."

The Victoria Falls center is the 13th such center in Zimbabwe. Since 1999, when the project started, more than 88,000 people have sought services at the centers nationwide. USAID Country Director Paul Weisenfield said over the next five years the United States will contribute $50 million to mitigate the AIDS crisis in Zimbabwe.

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