Imagine an 80 year old grand mother selling her three and only chickens in order to get bus fare to take her five year old granddaughter to the nearest clinic 15 kilometers away for Anti retroviral Therapy. At the clinic the aged grandmother is ordered to fork out $3 for medical cards before she collects the ARVs for child who was orphaned by HIV and AIDS.
From the sale of the three chickens, the desperate grandparent earned $6, she needs $2 for transport to and from the clinic, $3 for getting the medical cards and administration fees. She is left with $1 which she then uses to buy some bananas for the hungry, frail sick child.
Such is the situation in the country's rural areas the HIV positive and AIDs affected communities are facing. Executive Director, Dr Vhumani Magezi Family AIDS Caring Trust (FACT) Zimbabwe carried out national research on the coping mechanisms of rural communities living with AIDS. The report revealed that the affected and infected, some of them old and most frail, all desperate, are resorting to selling their domestic animals and other property to access treatment.
Dr Magezi reported at an HIV conference recently that the situation out there is unbearable. He added that the young and energetic are the only ones who are able to get part time jobs to fund access to ARVs. These drugs are free, but service charges and transport costs are the greatest hindering factor. The old end up selling their only wealth, their chickens and their goats to get bus fare to the clinics which are more often than not at quite a distance.
If the government is serious about the universal access to ART surely there is urgent need to decentralize AIDS services. Health workers or care givers employed by the government should be made mobile to reach the rural communities so that the vulnerable and the disadvantaged get access to the life saving treatment.