By Robert Tapfumaneyi
An alcohol policy is being developed in Zimbabwe, which health officials hope will help curb the spread of HIV and AIDS.
The United States funded Centre for Disease Control Zimbabwe (CDC-Zimbabwe) is assisting the government in developing the policy, a senior US Embassy health official confirmed.
Alcohol and HIV
Dr. Peter Kilmarx, head of CDC-Zimbabwe who has authored over 90 scientific research articles on health related issues, said: “Alcohol use is related to both risky sex and poor retention and care for people who are HIV infected.
“Some of the work we have been involved in is related to developing an alcohol policy for Zimbabwe, (and) some of that will be trying to address the policy interventions designed to reduce the risk of infection to HIV.”
Zimbabwe has witnessed declining HIV prevalence in recent years. Figures for HIV positive pregnant women declined from 25.7% in 2002 to 11.6% in 2009, according to Zimbabwe Antenatal Care Surveillance. This has been attributed behaviour change and death.
Recently a report by the country’s brewery shows that residents of the capital Harare consume more alcohol than any other city or region in the country. A total of 43% of alcohol consumed in the country was drunk in Harare followed by Bulawayo at 11%. The report also features information from beverage company Delta on its financial results, which show Zimbabwe consumed 198.1 million hectolitres of lager in 2011.
In the national alcohol policy, Dr Timothy Stamps, health advisor to the president and Cabinet, proposes a clampdown on Zimbabwe’s drinking culture. He also recommends that alcohol is not sold between 6am and 7pm from Monday to Saturday and before midday on Sunday. However, the proposal has been met with mixed feelings by the local revellers.
Dr Kilmarx also discussed new US government funding for HIV/AIDS of $18.6 million, which will enable the government of Zimbabwe to provide anti-retroviral medication for an additional 60,000 new patients.
The treatment coverage in Zimbabwe is 500,000, which represent 40% of the total population of people living with HIV/AIDS.