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South Africa moves to ‘test and treat’

Any HIV positive person will be able to get antiretroviral medicine irrespective of their CD4 count by September.

From September, South Africa will offer anyone living with HIV antiretroviral treatment irregardless of CD4 count, a measure of the immune system's strength

From September, South Africa will offer anyone living with HIV antiretroviral treatment regardless of CD4 count, a measure of the immune system’s strength

Treasury has allocated an extra R1-billion to finance this “universal test and treat” (UTT) programme, Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi announced during his budget speech in Parliament today.

The total health budget for 2016/17 is R183,6-billion, but there has been no increase in allocation to the National Health Insurance (NHI) although the Minister stressed that government was committed to its introduction.

“There isn’t a pot of gold for the NHI. It requires reorganising money that is already there,” Motsoaledi told Health-e News. He added that employers got around R16-billion in tax incentives for staff medical aid subsidies while around medical schemes had around R43-billion in reserves.

Government decided to adopt UTT after research showed that it would save money in the long term, mainly because it radically reduces the chance of an HIV-positive person passing the virus to others when they are on treatment and their viral loads are undetectable.

The health department has also launched an application that anyone can download to address medicine stock-outs. About 60 percent of all clinics have already started to use the stock visibility system, which monitors medicine stocks. Patients who download the app and experience stockouts can simply press a button and notify Pretoria, said Motsoaledi.

He added that he had started to negotiate with Roche, which produces the breast cancer medicine Herceptin, to try to reduce its price. It currently costs R500,000 for a year’s treatment.

Government is also launching a three-year campaign focusing on young women, aimed at reducing HIV, teen pregnancy and gender-based violence. – Health-e News.

An edited version of this story was also published on Health24.com

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