South Africa Says Half Million on AIDS Drugs, But Official Warns of Resistance Risk
August 31, 2007
On Thursday, a top health official said an estimated half million South Africans with HIV/AIDS have received antiretrovirals. Approximately 300,000 are obtaining ARVs through public hospitals and clinics, while it is likely another 200,000 are receiving them through the private sector, Thami Mseleku, Director-General of the Health Department, said at a press conference.
However, Mseleku stressed that exact numbers are not known because the government's patient record system is "not up to scratch." Thus, it is also unclear as to how many patients have experienced side effects or have discontinued treatment.
The increase in the number of people on ARVs has led to "a number of challenges," said Mseleku. "If we talk in general, we are facing the possibility of a major resistance phase in the country, which we need to respond to. People who started treatment a long time ago, they are now faced with a situation where they are likely to be developing resistance," he said, noting this would necessitate more expensive, newer drugs and treatment combinations.
"Then you have those people who actually stop and go ... and that also creates problems of resistance," said Mseleku.
About 5.4 million South Africans have HIV/AIDS -- the highest caseload in the world. Each day, an estimated 900 South Africans die of the disease, and 1,000 become newly infected. Treatment Action Campaign, an AIDS activist group, said a lack of monitoring makes it impossible to know how many are on ARV treatment, and it said the new figures should be treated with caution.
08.30.2007; Clare Nullis
This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.