AIDS levy raises millions to fund Zimbabwe’s HIV response

A senior Zimbabwean health official has revealed how money collected through the country’s AIDS levy is funding the national response to HIV.

A senior Zimbabwean health official has revealed how money collected through the country’s AIDS levy is funding the national response to HIV. In 2014 the government collected US$38.65 million through the levy, which is an income-based tax.

Tapuwa Magure, chief executive of the National AIDS Council, said: “The AIDS levy is charged on individuals, companies and trusts at a rate of three per cent of the amount of income tax assessed and the fund is collected by the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority. It is administered by the NAC, a state enterprise under the Ministry of Health and Child Care.”

According to Magure, the levy is essential in financing a wide range of HIV and AIDS-related programmes. Funds raised through the levy have increased significantly over the last five years, since Zimbabwe introduced the US dollar. Between 2009 and 2013, it raised a total of US$118.7 million, of which US$115.6 million was spent on programmes, with the remainder held in investments.

Funding antiretroviral therapy

Magure said his organisation supports the antiretroviral therapy programme through the procurement of medicines and equipment.

He added: “The funds do not only go to purchase antiretroviral drugs, they are also used to purchase and fund products and services which are directly related to the antiretroviral therapy programme.”

The levy pays for condoms, outreach programmes, refurbishing mobile clinics and decentralising services to enable more clients to access treatment. It funds CD4 count machines (which measure the patient’s immune levels which the HIV virus attacks), breast cancer screening packages, diagnostic kits for HIV and AIDS-related cancers, HIV test kits and tuberculosis medicines.

Support for children

“The AIDS levy also extends support to orphans and vulnerable children,” said Magure. “It has so far contributed US$1.64 million towards a Basic Education Assistance Module for school fees assistance [between 2011 and 2013].”

According to Magure, the National AIDS Trust Fund will support 15,295 children with school fees. Once these children are equipped with some education, their risk of contracting HIV will be reduced.

He added: “A total of US 7.7 million was invested in the programme which includes monitoring and evaluation, planning and coordination and capacity building.”

Since Zimbabwe began using the US dollar in 2009, the National AIDS Council has also been giving grants to the National Blood Services Zimbabwe to ensure the country has a safe blood supply.

However, Magure said that despite the increase in funds raised through the levy, there are still challenges in collecting it. This is because 70 per cent of Zimbabwe’s working population is employed in the informal sector and does not contribute to the fund. As a result, there is a gap in funding which means the National AIDS Council is not able to fulfil all its projects.

Read stories about HIV prevention and treatment