Antiretroviral Drugs Effective and Affordable, South African Task Force Report Says
A South African government task force has concluded that antiretroviral drugs are an effective and affordable means of treating HIV/AIDS, a move that could pave the way for a national antiretroviral drug program, South Africa's Business Day reports. The report will be considered this week at a meeting of provincial health ministers and national Health Minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang. Although the ministers have the option of referring the report back to the task force for further clarification, they are expected to send it to the cabinet for consideration, according to Business Day (Kahn, Business Day, 5/7). According to the South African Press Association, both Tshabalala-Msimang and Finance Minister Trevor Manuel must approve the report before it can be passed on to the nine provincial health ministers for their approval. Only then could the report be sent to the cabinet (South African Press Association, 5/8). The cabinet last October assembled the task force of officials from both the department of health and the national treasury -- a move that many regarded as a shift in the government's stand on the provision of antiretroviral drugs. Finance Minister Trevor Manuel's announcement that provisions had been made in the national budget for a possible drug program provided further evidence of the government's possible "change of heart," according to Business Day. If the drug program is approved, the government is expected to increase its efforts to encourage local production of generic antiretrovirals in order to drive down the cost of HIV/AIDS treatment. Several AIDS-related drugs, including generic versions, are awaiting approval from the Medicines Control Council (Business Day, 5/7).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.