A new plan to supply all HIV patients with a CD4 count of 350 or less with government antiretrovirals (ARV) treatment will help reduce deaths, Cosatu said.
"This is another milestone in the battle to roll back the deadly HIV epidemic," the Congress of South African Trade Unions spokesman Patrick Craven said. "If these new guidelines are effectively implemented, it will improve the quality of life of many people with HIV.”
A Lesotho study found that patients who started treatment when their count was above 200 were 68% less likely to die than those who only started treatment when their count fell below 200, Craven said.
Plans to cut new HIV infections
"The challenge is to make sure that all those now entitled to ARVs receive them regularly and that the rate of new infections is drastically cut."
Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe announced the treatment plan at a South African National AIDS Council (SANAC) meeting in Bloemfontein.
Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi said the government would budget R5 billion for the first year of the plan, with another R1 billion added in the next financial year.
A 53% cut in ARV medicine
However, he thinks South Africa could afford the new costs as government had brought the cost of ARV medicine down by R4.7 billion, an estimated 53%.
Motsoaledi said the plan would be integrated into the proposed National Health Insurance system.
Present guidelines only provided ARVs only for vulnerable people such as pregnant mothers or those with active Tuberculosis, Motsoaledi said. All other patients had to wait until their CD4 counts fell below 200.
(Sapa, August 2011)