12 March 2010

ARV demand will collapse fiscus

The massive demand for antiretroviral drugs will collapse the fiscus if not stopped, Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi said on Thursday.


The massive demand for antiretroviral drugs will collapse the fiscus if not stopped, Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi said on Thursday.

The government had budgeted R8 billion a year on antiretrovirals, a 33% rise from the previous year,

Motsoaledi told a media briefing in Cape Town.

"We must cut rate of infection by 50% by 2011 and reach 80% of the people who need ARVs.

"It is like climbing Mount Everest. If this country doesn't go through with that we are waiting for very tough times.

Can't keep raising budget

"To keep on increasing the budget of ARVs by 33%, 33% percent... Is something that the fiscus will collapse under if it is not stopped.

"The battle to cut rate of infection by 50% is the mainstay of the battle I want south Africans to understand."

Scale-up prevention

Earlier on Thursday Cabinet announced it had approved the implementation plan to scale up the HIV/Aids prevention and treatment programme recently presented by Motsoaledi.

The new plan aims to reduce the rate of infection by 50% by 2011 and to provide ARV treatment to 80% of those who need it.

"More emphasis will be placed on prevention through information, education, widespread distribution of condoms and mobilisation of millions of South Africans to know their status," government spokesman Themba Maseko said.

Voluntary testing by leaders

Highlights of the new plan included voluntary and public HIV/Aids testing led by Cabinet members and other leaders from broader society, a move from voluntary counselling and testing (VCT) to HIV counselling and testing (HCT), and a service delivery model that offered testing to all patients at health institutions.

The target of the HCT campaign was to test up to 15 million people by June 2011. The campaign would also promote healthy lifestyles and increase access to treatment, care, and support. 

All public health facilities, fixed and mobile, would be equipped to offer HIV testing and to provide ARVs.

Retired and non-practising medical staff would be asked to make themselves available to the health system to support this initiative.

Motsoaledi had already written letters to all retired and non-practising practitioners, appealing for their help.

New plan launched next month

The new HIV/Aids implementation plan would be launched in Gauteng on April 15, with provincial launches in all provinces on April 19.

Public testing would also take place at these events.

Motsoaledi said the government had its "eyes off [the] ball" on immunisation and prevention campaigns and people had started to believe that "health means cure.

"Just look at the issue of maternal health. I am sure many of you, the last time you heard the word contraception and family planning might have been some years back. Many young girls are using abortion as contraception and are dying as a result.

"When you move around you see pamphlets all over advertising abortions in some corners. Family planning is primary healthcare in itself."

Health budget non-negotiable

Motsoaledi said he would tell Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan which matters on the health budget were non-negotiable.

"If you move to provinces now and say 'where is your budget for measles immunisation?'...You will struggle to get it.

"That must be a non-negotiable, that children must be immunised. Women must undergo primary healthcare at anti-natal clinics, that include... family planning and contraception." - (Sapa, March 2010)


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HIV/Aids expert

Dr Sindisiwe van Zyl qualified at the University of Pretoria before working for an HIV/AIDS NPO in Soweto for many years. She was named one of the Mail & Guardian's Top 200 Young South Africans in 2012.

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