Mutare: Groups championing the rights of People Living With HIV (PLHIV) in the eastern border city have called on local health centres to scrap user fees to allow access to Anti-Retroviral Therapy (ART) free of any hindrance during the current lockdown period.
A survey conducted by this paper indicated that most clinics and health centres charged between $20 and $30 in user fees for ART patients seeking to replenish their supplies.
But the advocacy groups feel user fees must be waived due to the sharp dwindling of incomes caused by the current coronavirus induced job and business break.
They say the user fees were becoming a barrier to accessing medication considering that those on treatment also have to incur transport costs to go and pick up the drugs from the health centres.
Petrus Maramba (35) of Weirmouth, who is also on ART, said the user fees should be scrapped as the closure of their businesses has left them with no disposable incomes.
“Income has dwindled due to the lockdown and user fees have to be scrapped to reduce the burden on those without steady income,” said Maramba.
Family Aids Support Organisation (FASO) Director, Casper Pound also said user fees were a barrier to accessing drugs and medication during the lockdown period.
“Imagine a situation where the whole family is on ART and you need resupplies. You need more money to pay for user fees.
“Most of our members are self-employed, their businesses are closed for now and they don’t have income,” said Pound.
He said the user fee was now $20, up from $5.
“It’s too much considering that there are transport costs factored in yet,” he said.
Zimbabwe National Network of People Living With HIV (ZNNP+) Manicaland Coordinator, Moses Chananauka said user fees were not sustainable considering the dwindling incomes during lockdown.
“Incomes have dwindled due to lockdown and user fees have become a barrier for people living with HIV to access health services such as ART,” said Chananauka.
He said it was time drugs were issued free of charge.
Experts feel access to health care was a human right that should not be denied on any individual, directly or through the imposition of fees that could be unaffordable to many.
They want government to take over the entire burden.