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BULAWAYO has recorded the highest HIV prevalence rate in Zimbabwe in a development that is worrying the government as it battles to halt the spread of the pandemic.

The latest figures were revealed at the Second Annual Symposium on HIV and the Law held in Harare last week.

HIV prevalence in Bulawayo province was said to be at 21.78 percent, which is the highest in the country, while the rate in Mashonaland West stands at 12.4 percent which is the lowest.

Dr Owen Mugurungi, the director of the HIV and TB Unit in the Ministry of Health, attributed this development to poverty and the increase in the unemployment rate in the region.

“We need to interrogate the reasons why it is so, but some of the reasons might be related to migration. We know that in the southern part of the country most people are not together, there is a lot of cross border migration, and that can be one of the reasons,” he said.

“The economy around Bulawayo, we all know that there are social and economic issues around HIV. The more people have challenges the more, they might be able to engage in risky sexual behaviour. But we have not really had a deep analysis of what is really happening.”

According to health records the country’s HIV investments have grown from US$150 million in 2011 to US$260 million in 2013.

Health experts say HIV programmes will need at least $525 million by 2016.

About 1.3 million people are said to be living with HIV in Zimbabwe with 170 717 of these being children.

At present 75 percent of HIV programmes are being funded through a tax collected from workers and administered by the National Aids Council.

Some stakeholders have however raised concerns over how the NCA handles and distributes the Aids levy.

Source : New Zimbabwe