70000 now access ARVS

MPUMALANGA MEC for health and social development Dikeledi Mahlangu has revealed that 70000 people had access to antiretrovirals by March.

MPUMALANGA MEC for health and social development Dikeledi Mahlangu has revealed that 70000 people had access to antiretrovirals by March.

This was due to the revamped HIV-Aids roll-out programme.

Mahlangu said on Monday that HIV-Aids remained a serious challenge in the health sector, especially in public health institutions.

She added that the number of those receiving ARVs would be increased to 102000 during the 2010-11 financial year.

"The government is targeting to have at least 10percent of children accessing ARVs.

"We currently have 34 sites rolling out the treatment and will increase the number to more than 100 in this financial year.

"This will be achieved as we no longer accredit facilities but now do readiness assessment." Mahlangu said.

"This means that treatment will be more accessible than before as primary healthcare facilities have started to provide ARVs." Mahlangu said.

To cope, public hospitals were being renovated to make them conducive to dispensing ARVs to assist people living with HIV-Aids.

Mahlangu said the HIV-Aids prevalence in the province stood at 35percent, with the Gert Sibande district being the highest of the three with 40,5percent .

It is followed by the Ehlanzeni district with 35,5percent and Nkangala with 31,9percent.

Asked about the prevention of mother-to-child transmission programme, Mahlangu said there was gradual improvement but a early bookings by pregnant women remained a challenge.

She said the process followed once a pregnant woman had tested HIV positive was that she would undergo a CD4 count to check if she were medically eligible for ARVs.

"The mother is enrolled in the PMTCT programme. According to the new policy once the CD4 count of the pregnant woman is 350 or less she is referred for ARV initiation," Mahlangu said.

She said all health facilities - government, private and community-based - were involved in conducting HIV-Aids campaigns.

Mahlangu said the government's intention was to reduce new infections even during the World Cup.

But she emphasised that this was a bit of a challenge since the country did not have programmes for monitoring new infections.

"We, however, have programmes in place to ensure that new infections are reduced through the provision of both male and female condoms at all strategic points.

"We also do health promotion and distribution of information through education and communication materials," Mahlangu explained.

She confirmed that the government was embarking on various campaigns, including the massive counselling and testing campaign that started on April 1 and ends on June 30 next year at all health facilities.

"During the campaign 1095823 people, especially between the ages of 15 and 64,I are targeted to test and know their HIV status.

This campaign is supported by various local social mobilisation campaigns and other ongoing campaigns in the health calendar."