Early HIV testing by the private sector was saving lives and this was having a direct impact on easing the health and welfare burden on government, KwaZulu-Natal's MEC for Health Dr Sibongiseni Dhlomo said.
Dhlomo was addressing over 450 pharmacists, pharmacy assistants and nursing practitioners at the fourth annual Clicks Pharmacy Conference underway at the International Convention Centre in Durban.
"Diagnosing people who are HIV positive early and starting treatment immediately means they can live longer, healthier lives. In real terms this means less orphans, less burden on government."
4,000 people tested in KZN
The MEC said the Clicks' Group of Pharmacies had tested over 4,000 people in KwaZulu-Natal (as part of the national HIV Counselling and Testing Campaign) which was over a quarter of all the tests done by the retail pharmacy group in the country.
"Without this kind of private support the public sector would not cope."
Those tested were also checked for tuberculosis, diabetes, hypertension and anaemia. The MEC said the success of this public/private partnership meant there would be more collaboration between Clicks and government on other health issues; it was too soon to announce details of what these would involve, he added.
Slow down HIV/Aids pandemic
By working together government and the private sector could slow the HIV/Aids pandemic.
"One only has to look at how malaria rates have been reduced; this year 162 people were diagnosed with malaria in KwaZulu-Natal, none died; a few years ago this figure was 2,000.
"The malaria rate was controlled when we stopped counting and got out there, rolled our sleeves up and got to work," he said.
The same was happening with HIV/Aids with public/private partnerships the surest way to slow the pandemic.
Clicks Group Chief Executive, David Kneale, said HIV testing by Clicks' Pharmacies still had potential for more expansion.
"Two thirds of the testing we have done so far has been to people without health insurance," he said.
Kneale said the company was committed to playing a part in improving the lives of all South Africans. Through their national pharmacy chain Clicks was able to make testing convenient. - (Health24, September 2010)