Zimbabwe HIV Activists Push for Government Accountability
On October 9, hundreds of activists wearing T-shirts emblazoned with “HIV Positive” marched to the offices of the National AIDS Council in Harare, Zimbabwe, demanding that the government account for the millions of dollars that it is raising through an AIDS-related tax. The activists accuse the National AIDS Council—the government body that manages the 3 percent government-collected AIDS levy—of corruption. Zimbabwe was the first African nation to introduce a tax aimed at raising money for AIDS prevention and treatment programs, but the patients who were marching say nothing is reaching them now.
One HIV-positive man explained that he marched to protest his inability to obtain the anti-retroviral (ARV) drugs that are necessary for prolonging his life. He added that the government tells the press that ARVs are available, but the man claims that when he goes to clinics and pharmacies, these drugs are not available. Police stated that they would not sanction the march; nevertheless, the activists refused to back down, with one marcher declaring that they were not protesting against the government, just the corruption.
Tapiwa Magure, National AIDS Council director, stated that the Council is up to date with their audits, adding that there are tight controls. He declared that the Council is ready to explain everything. However, the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, an activist group, has petitioned the National AIDS Council, demanding that the agency disclose how the AIDS levy is being administered.
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