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Wednesday 28 February 2007
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SOUTH AFRICA: Cautious optimism over AIDS drug rollout

[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]

JOHANNESBURG, 18 March (PLUSNEWS) - Health workers in South Africa were cautiously optimistic on Wednesday about the imminent rollout of free anti-AIDS drugs to people living with HIV/AIDS.

The Gauteng health department announced earlier this week that the treatment programme would kick off at five hospitals in the province on 1 April and extend to include 18 other sites by 2005, bringing the total number of operational sites to 23.

Doctor Sagie Pillay, CEO of Johannesburg Hospital, one of the five treatment sites, told PlusNews that systems were already in place and the existing HIV/AIDS clinic had been restructured and expanded to accommodate the anticipated increase in the patient load.

"Apart from the AIDS clinic, we have also done a fair amount of preparation since the beginning of the year. We've conducted a great deal of planning with our nurses and clinicians, and have been waiting for this for some time now," Pillay said.

He added the hospital infrastructure had been scaled up to provide treatment for at least 1,000 HIV-positive patients, and all those with a CD4 count of 200 or below would receive free antiretrovirals.

CD4 cells are a type of "helper" cell that orchestrate the body's response to micro-organisms like the HI virus.

Pillay said it was critical for patients to understand that antiretroviral therapy was a lifelong treatment.

One of the main concerns was that patients could skip doses if they were not monitored, which could lead to them developing a resistance to the prescribed drugs.

He said the follow-up process would require both the commitment of the trained staff and the patients themselves.

"In order for this process to be successful, it is critical for all sites to develop outside partnerships with trained physicians who have been administering antiretrovirals over some time," Pillay noted.

According to the provincial health department, six more sites would be ready by August.


Recent SOUTH AFRICA Reports
Condom application given a hand ,  19/Feb/07
A true test of love on Valentine's Day,  14/Feb/07
AIDS response becomes a test of faith,  13/Feb/07
Rural orphan-care programmes struggle,  12/Feb/07
Farmworkers challenged to curb risky behaviour,  7/Feb/07
· AIDS Media Center
· The Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis & Malaria
· International Community of Women Living with HIV/AIDS
· International HIV/AIDS Alliance

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