Three-in-one ARV pill hailed as breakthrough in war against HIV

2013-04-09 00:00

NEWLY diagnosed HIV patients and pregnant and breastfeeding women will be the first to receive the new fixed-dose combination antiretroviral treatment aimed at reducing the number of tablets they take daily from three to one.

The ARV single-dosage treatment programme was rolled out nationally yesterday for thousands of patients in government hospitals around the country.

Sam Mkhwanazi, a spokesperson for the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Health, told The Witness yesterday that the government was excited about the new development in HIV and Aids treatment.

It would go a long way in assisting in the fight against HIV for hundreds of thousands of people living with the virus.

He said the province was ready to roll out the drug.

The national Department of Health has awarded a R5,9 billion tender for supply of the three-in-one combination of tenofovir, emtricitabine and efavirenz in a single tablet.

The new treatment means that a patient needs to take only one tablet daily, not three.

The ARV programme had about 1,7 million patients on treatment and this might be expanded to 2,5 million by the end of 2014, said the department.

Said Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi: “All pregnant HIV-positive women will be given the fixed-dose combination during pregnancy and breastfeeding and thereafter if their CD4 count is less than 350.”

Richard Shandu, KwaZulu-Natal co-ordinator of the Treatment Action Campaign, welcomed the roll-out of the new ARVs and congratulated the government.

“Most people tend to run away from treatment, and this new development will encourage people to take their treatment and get tested.

“Taking one pill a day will make a difference,” he said.

But Shandu expressed concern that not all HIV-positive patients would receive the treatment and called on the government to include all people living with the virus in due course.

“Many people are not ready to disclose their status, which causes them to default on their treatment.

“People will be encouraged to go for treatment if all they have to do is take one pill a day,” he added.

Sibongiseni Delihlazo, communications manager of the Democratic Nursing Organisation of South Africa, said the roll-out was a positive step towards ensuring universal access to quality health.

Most of the people infected by the disease were on the lowest rung of the economic ladder and could not always afford have a meal before taking the pills.

“Access to quality health in developing countries has been in accordance with one’s socio-economic status, and not based on the need for care.

“This intervention is a step closer towards breaking this cycle,” Delihlazo said.

• ayanda.mdluli@witness.co.za

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