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Zimbabwe Hosts HIV-AIDS Conference - 2004-06-14


With the HIV virus and AIDS running rampant across Africa, Zimbabwe is hosting its first conference on what has become a major medical problem.

The four-day conference is expected to bring together more than 500 international and local delegates from governments, the private sector, and civic society groups.

The theme of the conference is Taking Stock: Looking to the Future. According to Zimbabwe's minister of health, Dr. David Parirenyatwa, the delegates will examine what has been learned since Zimbabwe's first HIV case was identified in 1985, and how they can profit from the experiences of experts from other countries.

Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe will officially open the conference. Among the high-profile speakers will be former Zambian president Kenneth Kaunda, whose son died of AIDS in the 1980s and is now an activist in the war against the disease.

Zimbabwe has one of the highest HIV rates in the world. A national HIV-AIDS estimate puts the figures of those infected at 25 percent out of a population of 11.6 million. In addition, 3,000 deaths a week are attributed to AIDS.

Zimbabwe declared HIV-AIDS a national disaster in 1999 and introduced a three percent levy on income tax to finance AIDS-fighting programs.

A local pharmaceutical company is now manufacturing generic anti-AIDS (ARV) drugs, but the medicines are available only to the less privileged. Those with the means to do so have to pay.