JOHANNESBURG, 1ST SEPTEMBER 2016: From today all people living with HIV in South Africa are eligible to receive antiretroviral therapy (ART) in the public healthcare system. Previously only people with CD4 counts of 500 cells/mm3 or less were eligible for ART.
The Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) welcomes this development. Last year the landmark START trial showed that starting ART earlier is better for your health than waiting for your immune system to weaken. Based on the findings from the START trial we updated our position on ART in July 2015 and called for all people living with HIV to be provided ART. Read our position statement here: tac.org.za/news/updated-tac-position-statement-hiv-treatment-south-africa-july-2015
TAC will both support and monitor the implementation of the new treatment guidelines through our 230 branches across South Africa.
While we support the change in ART eligibility, we have serious concerns about the ability of the public healthcare system in our provinces to implement these new guidelines effectively.
Firstly, we remain deeply concerned about the harmful impact of corruption on the public healthcare system – especially in the Eastern Cape, Mpumalanga , Free State and Limpopo. We are worried that both government and the ruling party are unwilling to address corruption aggressively – as illustrated by the fact that Free State MEC for Health Benny Malakoane remains in place even though he is facing multiple serious charges of fraud and corruption.
Secondly, we are concerned that there is still no clear national policy for the employment of community healthcare workers and lay councillors. We consider these workers to be essential to the future of South Africa’s HIV and TB response. While Minister of Health Dr Aaron Motsoaledi has said South Africa needs 40,000 CHWs, UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibé said at the recent International AIDS Conference in Durban that South Africa needs 200,000.
Finally, providing treatment to all people living with HIV in South Africa will require much more than government just buying more pills. Providing over seven million people with treatment requires a functioning healthcare system, effective medicines distribution systems, and people at all levels to ensure the system works. At the recent International AIDS Conference one of the demands in our memorandum to Minister Motsoaledi was for a detailed and costed plan showing exactly how we will ensure that all people have access to treatment. In response he said that his department is already working on this. We repeat our demand that the Minister makes this plan public before World AIDS Day, December 1, 2016.
For more information and to arrange interviews contact Lotti Rutter on 081 818 8493 or Mary-Jane Matsolo on 079 802 2686