Big shortfall in Aids drugs

Waghied Misbach

Waghied Misbach

More than a million South Africans are estimated to need antiretroviral drugs, but only 282200 patients are receiving the life-prolonging drugs in public hospitals.

This was the estimate yesterday from health director-general Thami Mseleku, who was speaking at a briefing in Pretoria with Health Minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang.

Mseleku said that the total number of patients on antiretrovirals was calculated at the end of April.

He said the one million figure was an estimate because the provision of the antiretrovirals would depend on the status of the patient, including the CD4 count and opportunistic diseases.

Mseleku could also not say how many people had discontinued the treatment. He admitted that many clinics and hospitals around the country did not have the capacity to keep records of patients to check if they were taking their medication.

Tshabalala-Msimang said there had been a "statistically significant" drop in the prevalence of HIV among young pregnant women who use public hospitals. She said this "suggests a possible reduction in new infections in the population".

These were "preliminary" results from the 2006 antenatal survey, which is expected to be released later this year. She said a study still needed to be done of pregnant women at private hospitals.

In the under-20 age group the figure had dropped from 30,2percent in 2005 to 29,1percent in 2006. For the 20 to 24 age group the figure dropped from 15,9 percent in 2005 to 13,7percent last year, Tshabalala-Msimang said.

She said that at least 335 public health facilities and nine correctional services facilities had been accredited to provide antiretrovirals.