Updated 24 July 2014

SA to start HIV+ patients on antiretrovirals sooner

The Health Minister said that as of January 2015, HIV-positive patients will get antiretroviral treatment at an earlier stage.

South Africa will start treating HIV-positive patients at an earlier stage starting next year, Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi said on Wednesday.

"As from January 2015, we shall start HIV-positive patients on treatment at CD4 count of less than 500 as against the CD4 count of less than 350," Motsoaledi announced during his budget vote speech in Parliament.

WHO Option B Plus

The new treatment regime was in line with guidelines adopted by the World Health Organisation (WHO) in 2013, which recommended that countries start treating HIV-positive patients on antiretroviral (ARV) drugs sooner.

In addition, South Africa would no longer terminate the treatment of HIV-positive women when they stopped breastfeeding their infants.

Instead, South Africa would adopt the WHO Option B Plus from January next year.

"Option B Plus simply means every pregnant HIV-positive woman goes on lifelong treatment, regardless of their CD4 status," Motsoaledi explained.

"Treatment of as many people as possible has been found by research to be also a form or prevention."

The new drug treatment regime would be coupled with prevention programmes.

The programmes would include massive condom distribution, a scaling up of medical male circumcisions, and testing campaigns.

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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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