Corruption: Zimbabwe health workers creating artificial HIV drug shortages

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A private grouping of lawyers in Zimbabwe has claimed that there is rampant corruption at government hospitals and municipal clinics as HIV and Aids patients are “forced’ to pay exorbitant bribes to access anti-retroviral drugs.

Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, in a new report titled “Corruption burns universal access” points to nurses and senior administration staff as being the major culprits.

The study was conducted in Harare, Bulawayo, Manicaland and Masvingo with 1024 respondents.

“Bribes for services, enrollment and requests for informal payments were identified as the dominant practices of this corruption,” reads the report.

Health workers, according to the research, claimed that low salaries had driven them into corrupt activities as coping strategies.

The report further to allege that the health workers were creating false shortages in order to force patients to go and buy, in most cases, at their pharmacies.

They were further accused of creating a black market for ARVs much to the detriment of patients, who were supposed to access them from hospitals and

“Drug stock outs have also become common place because drugs are diverted to the black market through covert fraud and dispensing to ghost patients,” the report reads.

The research noted that the absence of a functioning code of conduct for health workers allowed for staff to have enormous latitude to police themselves and this meant that accountability was lax.

About 200 000 people receive ARVs at public hospitals but activists say the
majority of people in need of urgent treatment have no access.

Official figures indicate that at least 1,300 people in Zimbabwe die of HIV and Aids-related illnesses every week with new infections estimated at 66 000, a slight drop from last year’s 66,156.

The estimated number of new HIV infections in adults (15-49) peaked in 1992 to 234,999, but declined to 62,883 in 2008.

Last year, the new adult infections increased to 66,156.

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