SA a model for HIV treatment

By Drum Digital
02 December 2013

South Africa has been hailed as a model for HIV treatment.

South Africa's free drugs programme for AIDS has expanded rapidly to 2.4 million people -- more than double the number three years ago -- and boasts the largest treatment project in the world.

At a clinic at one Johannesburg public hospital, life-saving anti-retroviral drugs are dispensed at the click of a button.

A doctor sees a patient and sends the prescription electronically to the pharmacy, where it is immediately dispatched to a robot.

The robot then picks up the prescribed drugs and drops them into a pigeon hole in just under 90 seconds for the patient to collect.

"It's almost like your 'McDonald's drive-thru' principle," said Ian Sanne, managing director of Right to Care, the non-profit organisation running the Themba Lethu clinic.

"The doctor orders it and by the time you get to the next window your drugs are ready."

The hi-tech dispensary bears testimony to how far Africa's largest economy has come after a court forced it to give free AIDS medicines --called anti-retrovirals or ARVs -- in 2002.

With drugs, life expectancy has shot up to 60 years from just 51.6 in 2005.

Around 6.4 million South Africans -- 12.3 percent of the population --live with HIV or AIDS, according to a survey last year.

"We are proud that we are regarded as a model country," Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi said.


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