06 December 2007

Govt claims move on PMTCT

Government claims to be stepping up the fight against mother to child transmission of HIV, but critics say they are not doing enough.

Government is to strengthen its prevention of mother to child transmission of HIV (PMTCT) programme, government spokesman Themba Maseko said on Thursday.

Cabinet welcomed the 2007 United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) report card on PMTCT and paediatric HIV care and treatment in low and middle income countries.

The report card listed South Africa among 17 countries that were on track towards meeting the UN 2010 target in the provision of antiretroviral treatment for PMTCT.

"Efforts are being made to strengthen the PMTCT programme, including impact assessment and the improvement of the treatment protocols to introduce dual therapy," he said.

Commitment to dual therapy?
On Saturday, Health Minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang said that dual therapy for Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission of HIV should be implemented from the beginning of next year.

According to a department of health media release, she said that the treatment guidelines for dual therapy has been developed and was being considered for endorsement by all the MECs as the provinces will be responsible for implementation.

She said the current treatment protocol which uses single drug nevirapine (mono-therapy) has been of concern because of its limited effect and drug resistance associated with it.

Long overdue
Tshabalala-Msimang has long been criticised for not doing more to speed the introduction of dual therapies for PMTCT.

According to Nathan Geffen, spokesperson for the Treatment Action Campaign, there is no reason to wait until next year. He told Health24 that the minister could have introduced dual therapy for PMTCT "years ago."

He also voiced various concerns regarding the specifics of the new treatment protocols and expressed fears that they may not be in line with the current scientific consensus.

Significant coverage
South Africa's PMTCT programme had the largest coverage in the sub-Saharan region, reaching between 50 to 60 percent of the targeted population.

More than 370 000 people had been initiated on the antiretroviral therapy by September 2007, and the HIV prevalence level among teenagers had decreased from 15.9 to 13.7 percent. – (Sapa/Health24)

Read more:
HIV/Aids Centre
Manto stepping up Aids fight?

December 2007


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Dr Sindisiwe van Zyl qualified at the University of Pretoria in 2005. She is a patients' rights activist and loves using social media to teach about HIV. She is in private practice in Johannesburg.

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