China, South Africa’s ARV Programs ‘Courageous, Essential’ Step; Only South Africa Likely To Succeed, Editorial Says
China and South Africa last week took a "courageous and essential step" in fighting HIV/AIDS by announcing plans to distribute antiretroviral drugs free-of-charge to all who need them, a New York Times editorial says. China has been treating 5,000 people and intends to expand its program to cover all HIV-positive people in the country, and South Africa's Cabinet approved a plan that would provide medications to anyone who needs them, according to the editorial. However, the editorial says that South Africa is likely to succeed, while China's program is "already failing." One in five people in China who have been given the drugs have stopped taking them, increasing the chance for the emergence of drug-resistant HIV strains, and health care workers have been "simply handing patients bottles of pills" without offering counseling on how to take the drugs or deal with their side effects, the editorial says. South Africa, "by contrast, understands that handing out pills is only part of the solution," and country officials plan to establish a medical infrastructure to administer the drugs, according to the editorial. South Africa also received assistance in developing the plan from an "influential national network of campaigners for AIDS treatment" and the William J. Clinton Presidential Foundation, whereas China's government "made its decisions in secret and has yet to permit such widespread citizen activism on AIDS," the editorial says. However, China's epidemic is far smaller than South Africa's, giving China "a chance to learn from other nations before the deluge" of HIV cases, the editorial concludes (New York Times, 11/23).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.