R8,4bn allocated for ARVs in next 3 years

ECONOMISTS are happy about the significant improvement in the health budget, especially the spending on the HIV and Aids programme.

ECONOMISTS are happy about the significant improvement in the health budget, especially the spending on the HIV and Aids programme.

But they have voiced concerns about whether SA has the capacity to ensure that the ARV programme is effective.

Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan announced that a further R3billion would be allocated for HIV-Aids treatment on top of the R5,4billion that was added by the Treasury in October last year.

This has brought the total spending on ARV treatment over the next three years to R8,4billion.

Nicoli Nattrass, professor of economics at the University of Cape Town said: "The R8,4 billion is a very reasonable amount of money for ARV drugs.

"SA may be able to sustain the expanded ARV programme. We need to question government about how they plan to have an effective roll-out.

"We already have backlogs on people waiting for treatment."

Health economist Alex van den Heever agreed that the biggest problem is capacity.

"At present, 920 000 people are on antiretroviral treatment. The budget provides for the number to rise to 2,1million in 2012/13," Gordhan said.

Nattrass and Van den Heever were sceptical about the numbers.

Natrass said that by the end of last year 660 000 were on treatment. "It sounded unrealistic for the number to increase by more than 160000 in less than three months."

X