Government-Sponsored Prevention, Treatment, Counseling and Testing Could Help South Africa Avert a ‘Social Catastrophe,’ Report Says
A government-sponsored program that includes HIV/AIDS prevention, counseling and testing, as well as antiretroviral treatment, could help save nearly three million lives and prevent almost as many new infections in South Africa by 2015, thereby averting a "social catastrophe," according to a report released on Thursday by the Treatment Action Campaign, the South African Press Association reports (South African Press Association, 9/26). The South African government has been resistant to providing antiretroviral treatment, citing concerns about cost and safety. However, treatment is a necessary component of any plan to tackle the country's epidemic, according to the report. "Antiretroviral treatment is a form of prevention in its own right -- firstly by lowering the concentration of the virus, making people less infectious, and secondly by increasing the rate at which people access voluntary counseling and testing services," Leigh Johnson, a researcher at the University of Cape Town's Center for Actuarial Research, which conducted the year-long study, said, adding, "The bad news in terms of antiretroviral treatment is that the number of people requiring treatment, if it was to be made freely available, is quite staggering." Johnson said that an estimated 2.7 million people who rely on the government for health care and 260,000 medical insurance beneficiaries will require antiretroviral therapy by 2015. TAC estimates that costs for the "full package" program of treatment and prevention would "peak" at about $1.88 billion in 2015, but TAC spokesperson Nathan Geffen said that such programs could be "phased in" over the next 10 years, beginning with an expenditure of about $28 million next year. South Africa, where approximately one in nine people is HIV-positive, currently spends about $2.6 billion annually on all of its health care programs (Reuters, 9/26).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.