Human Immune-deficiency Virus (HIV) started to spread in Zimbabwe in the early 1980s with the first case of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) identified in 1985. Since then, the number of reported cases of AIDS have been rising expontenaly from 119 reported in 1987 to over 655,000 cumulative estimated cases by the end of 2000.Current estimates from the National AIDS Coordination Programme of the Ministry of Health and Child Welfare, show that around 2000 people are dying of AIDS every week.What makes AIDS unique from other diseases is that it is affecting the young . Adults who are the most productive segment of the population. About 70 % of the reported AIDS cases are in the age group 20 to 29 years with male cases dominating in all age groups expect in the 15 to 19 years age group.The impact of AIDS on Zimbabwe's future is staggering. Infant mortality is now 72% higher than it would have been without the epidemic. The cumulative number of AIDS related deaths, using conservative assumptions, will reach 1.3 million by 2005, and currently 2,000 deaths a week are attributed to HIV/AIDS. Life expectancy in Zimbabwe, which was 62 years in the early 1990s, will decrease to 35 years or even lower by 2010. AIDS will also leave 900,000 orphans by the year 2005.In addition to its enormous toll in suffering and death, HIV/AIDS is exacerbating poverty and adding to economic hardship at the national, community and family levels. Poverty and ADDS feed on one another, and the decline in economic growth in Zimbabwe is creating conditions that encourage the spread of the epidemic and make it more difficult for those infected and affected by AIDS to cope. If unchecked, HIV/AIDS will alter the country's economic prospects by retarding growth, weakening human capital especially among adults in the most productive years of their lives, discouraging investment, and leave the next generation hostage to spending most of their effort on caring for those living with HIV/AIDS.Zimbabwe's future depends on addressing HIV/AIDS forcefully, effectively, and quickly.
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