Chakanyuka Bosha, the ZUJ’s national co-ordinator, told IRIN/PlusNews that the union had identified medical experts to dispense the ARVs in accordance with government guidelines, and that the drugs would be available free of charge to union members and their immediate family. A foreign development agency, which did not wish to be named, has agreed to supply the drugs.
Bosha noted that journalism was a poorly remunerated profession in Zimbabwe, with some practitioners earning as little as US$5 month. "A month’s supply of ARV drugs costs about US$50, which would make ARV therapy beyond the reach of our constituency."
Zimbabwe has been hard hit by the HIV/AIDS pandemic: according to UNAIDS, adult HIV prevalence is 15 percent, and many Zimbabweans living with the virus are struggling to feed themselves adequately as a result of the hyperinflation, unemployment and shortages of basic commodities brought about by the country’s economic meltdown. The government’s treatment programme is providing ARV drugs to about 100,000 of the estimated 321,000 people in need of them.
A three-month ban on the activities of non-governmental organisations, imposed by the government during the run-up to the presidential election in June, was officially lifted on August 30, but several NGOs providing assistance to people living with HIV have reported that they are still having difficulty reaching HIV-positive people.
ZUJ plans to partner with the Zimbabwe Journalists Forum on HIV and AIDS to roll out ARVs to its members, and to set up a national forum for journalists to discuss and develop strategies for reporting on HIV and AIDS issues.
The forum would also lobby for media houses to introduce workplace policies on HIV/AIDS. "In other sectors, employers have policies and programmes that employees living with HIV/AIDS can benefit from. For example, employers can contribute towards the purchase of ARVs for their employees," said Bosha.
ZUJ, in conjunction with the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU), a labour federation, has also started distributing free sanitary towels to its female members because their cost has rocketed.