RUNAWAY inflation coupled with skyrocketing prices for pharmaceutical products has eroded AIDS Levy collections over the past few months, making it difficult for the National Aids Council (NAC) to procure Antiretroviral Treatment (ART) drugs from foreign suppliers, HealthTimes has learnt.
By Michael Gwarisa
Even though treasury gave NAC the green light to access foreign currency from banks at the prevailing Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) set interbank rate, the organisation has been struggling to purchase lifesaving drugs from foreign sources since suppliers only accept the United States Dollar (USD).
Briefing a Gendered corruption dialogue meeting which was organised by Transparency International Zimbabwe (TIZ) in the capital this morning, NAC Finance Director, Mr Godfrey Muzari said they had collected ZW$85 million up to September but all that is translating into just handful US dollars.
In terms of our collections, currently we are collecting in Zimbabwean dollars and most of our AIDS levy, I would say 98%, is in local currency. In terms of procurement of the drugs and other related commodities, we need foreign currency. The percentage we get from the AIDS levy is very little, I think its US$200,000 whereas procuring ARVs requires a lot US dollars.
“In 2019, we got something from the RBZ, we applied to the RBZ and the RBZ will give us the money at the interbank rate. We are buying from the banks so that we can buy drugs for the patients. In 2019, our collections are going up, I think it is because of the inflation but not in actual value. Collections are going up in terms of volumes but in terms of value, it’s decreasing,” said Mr Muzari.
From January up to September 2019, the AIDS Levy collected a total of ZW$85 million which translates to a meagre US$6 million at the prevailing interbank rate. He added that AIDS levy collections are coming from the formal sector which is currently reeling from the prevailing economic woes.
“In terms of what we want, it is unlimited, resources permitting we want to but all the ARVs in Zimbabwe but we limited because of that. We had some creditors amounting to US$6.9 million in 2017 and 2018 so we used most of the funds to buy forex from the banks and from the RBZ so that we can clear the creditors. This year we never procured any drugs.
““The AIDS Levy can be affected by the political and economic situation of the country. The AIDS Levy in terms of value right is poor. Right now we cannot procure ARVs, the ZW$85 million we collected up to September is very insignificant.
He added that NAC was considering taping into other sectors to beef up the AIDS collections for example Capital Projects such as road construction projects such as Masvingo roads project among other options such as diaspora remittances, private public partnerships and efficiencies.
From 2009 up to 2018 during the multicurrency system, NAC used US$63 million to procure ARVs from foreign suppliers. However, with the current collections being done in local currency terms, the future for people living with HIV and on ART could be bleak.
Meanwhile, 85 percent of funding for HIV treatment and interventions comes from external sources, mainly The Global Fund (GF), the United States President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) among others.
Global Fund currently supports about 700,000 people who are on ART whereas government through NAC supports only 100, 000.