South African Health Official Says Antiretroviral Drugs Too Costly to Provide
South African Health Director-General Ayanda Ntsaluba said in a BBC television interview that antiretroviral drugs were still too expensive for the government to purchase and distribute to HIV-positive citizens, stating that "scarce resources" had shaped the government's policy on the drugs, Reuters/Contra Costa Times reports. "There are many painful choices we are making in this country. There are many things we would like to do which we are unable," Ntsaluba explained, adding, "Antiretrovirals are effective under specific conditions but you also know that like many things in life there are many things we would wish to do in this health system in South Africa which we are not doing. There are many things we are not doing precisely because we don't have the necessary resources." Although several multinational drug firms have offered South Africa and other African nations price discounts on AIDS medications, Pretoria "has been reluctant to accept these offers, questioning the sustainability of the price offers and the ability of the health system to dispense the drugs," Reuters/Contra Costa Times says. The country has the highest number of HIV-positive people in the world, with one in nine infected with the virus, and the government spends about $10 million annually to fight AIDS. The Treatment Action Campaign, South Africa's leading AIDS activist group, is expected to take the government to court for denying zidovudine to HIV-positive pregnant women to reduce the risk of viral transmission to their infants (Reuters/Contra Costa Times, 8/13).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.