South African President Thabo Mbeki Says Government Report on National Antiretroviral Drug Program Due Shortly
South African President Thabo Mbeki on Wednesday said that his government is "days away" from completing a study on how to distribute antiretroviral drugs to HIV/AIDS patients in South Africa, the Washington Post reports (Slevin, Washington Post, 9/25). The South African government on Aug. 8 called for the Ministry of Health to develop a national program to provide antiretroviral medications to residents with HIV/AIDS, and government officials named a team to help the government and public health leaders develop the plan. The team is led by Dr. Anthony Mbewu, executive director for research at South Africa's Medical Research Council, and will include some experts from the William J. Clinton Presidential Foundation. Nono Simelela, chief director of the South African Department of Health's HIV/AIDS program, serves as deputy head of the team (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 9/8). The team is studying NIH HIV treatment guidelines and has begun to conclude that South Africa is "badly prepared" to deliver antiretroviral drugs to South Africa's nearly five million HIV-positive residents, according to the Post. Mbeki said that it is unlikely that his government will be able to distribute the drugs to "whoever needs them" (Washington Post, 9/25). Mbeki added that it is necessary to establish the proper medical infrastructure before antiretrovirals are delivered, according to the New York Times. "It's incorrect merely to say: 'Distribute antiretroviral drugs, problem solved,'" Mbeki said, adding, "You've got to come at it in a more comprehensive way" (Barringer, New York Times, 9/25). The team is considering concentrating antiretroviral treatment programs in teaching hospitals, Mbeki said, according to the Post. "Because of the nature and sensitivity of these drugs, it's important that the people who dispense them and supervise their use must be specially trained," Mbeki said, adding, "You can't just give them to some doctor or nurse" (Washington Post, 9/25).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.