Home » Health Services » Zimbabwe Needs U.S $22 Million for HIV Viral Load Monitoring

ZIMBABWE requires about $22,5 million annually to monitor the health of 750,000 HIV positive locals who are currently on anti-retroviral treatment (ART).

The latest World Health Organisation (WHO) HIV treatment guidelines call for patients to receive a viral load test once a year to allow the switching of clients to favourable drugs.

A viral load test measures the number of HIV particles in a blood sample.

However, due to limited funds, Zimbabwe is presently providing repeat CD4 count checks which are considerably cheaper than viral load testing.

Ministry health Aids and TB Unit director, Owen Mugurungi, said the government does not have the money for viral load monitoring, forcing the country to rely on CD4 counts.

He said viral load checks cost between $20 and $30 for each of the 750,000 patients which would work out to more than $22 million.

“Recommendations require us to monitor the viral load of patients, but whilst we want to do that we do not have the funds,” he said.

“The issue is that the average viral load check costs $20-$30 and that is the amount also needed for a month’s supply of ARVs.

“Now my challenge is that I have 1.1 million people living with HIV of which 750 000 are on treatment. I still have over 300,000 who are not yet on treatment.

“If the money is there it would rather go towards providing treatment for those who need it.”

To help address the problem, the government has allowed Non-Governmental Organisations with the capacity to scale up viral load testing in the country.

“We have said to NGOs and partners with resources especially the Medicines Sans Frontiers (MSF), to go ahead because whatever lessons experienced will assist us in rolling out or shaping up a national viral load monitoring system,” said Mugurungi.

MSF project coordinator for Gutu and Chikomba, Dr Teresa Bonyo, said a pilot project to monitor viral load has since been rolled.

“We hope the project will be implemented at a national level,” she said.

During 2013 Medicines Sans Frontiegraveres (MSF) performed the test on around 30,000 patients in Zimbabwe.

Zimbabwe is yet to achieve the Abuja declaration which recommends 15% budget allocation to health.

The country’s health budget has been declining by two percent annually over the past three years. In 2015 the health ministry only received $337 million after requesting $700 million.

Source : New Zimbabwe