Africa Asia Middle East عربي Français free subscription IRIN Site Map RSS find PlusNews on facebook follow PlusNews on twitter
Global HIV/AIDS news and analysis
Advanced search
 Sunday 19 December 2010
Weekly reports 
In-Depth reports 
Country profiles 
Fact files 
Most read 
Print report Share |
ZIMBABWE: HIV patients forced to pay up or go without

Corruption has contributed to drug stock-outs as drugs are diverted to the black market
HARARE, 5 October 2010 (PlusNews) - Rampant corruption in the provision of life-prolonging antiretroviral (ARV) drugs and other HIV services is threatening Zimbabwe's national AIDS response according to a recently released report by a local human rights group.

Commissioned by the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) in March 2010, the report - Corruption Burns Universal Access to Treatment - found that 73 percent of HIV-positive respondents had been asked to pay bribes by health workers. Most of those unwilling or unable to pay were turned away or given inadequate services.

Nurses at government hospitals and clinics were identified as the chief culprits, but support staff, including nurse aides and administrative personnel, were also implicated; doctors were rarely involved.

The findings were based on interviews with 1,024 people living with HIV in the provinces of Masvingo, Harare, Bulawayo and Manicaland. Most of the respondents lived in urban areas and 89 percent had a family income of less than US$100 a month.

Of the 747 respondents who had been asked for bribes, 57 percent were trying to access drugs, mainly ARVs; 24 percent needed diagnostic services; and 19 percent were asked for money to be enrolled in HIV programmes. The authors noted that the long waiting lists for enrolment at many hospitals drove desperate patients to pay bribes as high as $100.

HIV patients were often asked to pay for services that were supposed to be free; sometimes they were told that certain drugs were unavailable or that diagnostic equipment was broken until they paid a bribe, after which the equipment was declared functional and the service was given.

About a third of the respondents who were asked for bribes refused to pay them, mainly because of poverty; as a consequence, 63 percent were denied the service and had to pay for drugs or diagnostic tests in the private sector, or on the black market, or go without.

"The research findings reinforced the view that corruption in healthcare discourages treatment, testing, and other health-seeking behaviour," the researchers concluded.

"In these circumstances, the general attitude has been observed to shift towards resentment and resignation by [people living with HIV], who then give up on accessing essential medicines and diagnostic services."

Call for action

Martha Tholanah, an HIV/AIDS activist and member of the Zimbabwe Network of Positive Women, said the report shed light on a problem that HIV-positive Zimbabweans had been experiencing for "quite some time".

She told IRIN/PlusNews that there was a need for a system that would electronically record when patients collected their ARV medication. "This will weed out corrupt elements among health workers, and among people living with HIV."

''If treatment is made conditional on corrupt practices, it could well be that the lives of those who cannot afford to pay bribes will be endangered''
The programme manager of the HIV/AIDS, Human Rights and Law Project at ZLHR, Tinashe Mundawarara, said: "The danger of these practices is that they create disincentives to invest in public health." He added that health workers were engaging in corrupt activities partly to subsidise their low salaries, but this should not be an excuse for government not to take action.

The report called for the government, civil society and Zimbabwe's Anti-Corruption Commission to take urgent measures to curb corruption in the health sector.

"If treatment is made conditional on corrupt practices, it could well be that the lives of those who cannot afford to pay bribes will be endangered," the authors noted, adding that the issue was even more pressing in Zimbabwe which has an estimated adult HIV prevalence of 14 percent.

Health minister Dr Henry Madzorera told IRIN/PlusNews he could not comment until his ministry's own investigations had confirmed any reports of corruption. "As a matter of policy our ministry will look into this matter thoroughly, and we urge members of the public to assist us by reporting to the police any corruption."


Theme(s): (PLUSNEWS) Care/Treatment - PlusNews, (PLUSNEWS) HIV/AIDS (PlusNews)


[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]
Print report Share |
FREE Subscriptions
Your e-mail address:

Submit your request
 More on Zimbabwe
HIV/AIDS: MSM groups hail pill to prevent HIV
ZIMBABWE: Drop in condom use following HIV prevention trial
SOUTHERN AFRICA: HIV prevention for youth - it's complicated
SOUTHERN AFRICA: No sex for a month to prevent HIV
HIV/AIDS: Global Fund looks to private sector to fill funding gap
 More on Care/Treatment - PlusNews
SOUTH AFRICA: Sihle Motha, "You have this person's life in your hands"
SOUTH AFRICA: Nurses step into ART breach
SWAZILAND: Army slowly winning the HIV/AIDS battle
HEALTH: WHO approves new rapid TB test
KENYA: Walking 26km for a condom
 Most Read 
SRI LANKA: Princey Mangalika: "My neighbours burned my house because they thought I had HIV"
SOUTH AFRICA: Nurses step into ART breach
SOUTH AFRICA: Sihle Motha, "You have this person's life in your hands"
HIV/AIDS: IRIN/PlusNews weekly news and analysis round-up Issue 516 for 17 December 2010
Back | Home page

Services:  Africa | Asia | Middle East | Film & TV | Photo | Radio | Live news map | E-mail subscription
Feedback · IRIN Terms & Conditions · Really Simple Syndication News Feeds · About PlusNews · Jobs · Donors

Copyright © IRIN 2010
This material comes to you via IRIN, the humanitarian news and analysis service of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. The opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of the United Nations or its Member States. Republication is subject to terms and conditions as set out in the IRIN copyright page.