Early HIV treatment will require boost in health services capacity

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LERATO LELIA

The increase in the number of people getting HIV treatment will require government to boost its Health system service capacity. This is according to the Director of the WITS Reproductive Health and HIV Institute, Helen Reese.

Health Minister, Aaron Motsoaledi announced, during his budget vote speech on Wednesday, that South Africa will start treating HIV-positive patients at an earlier stage starting next year.

“The announcement means obviously that there will be significantly larger numbers of people who are now qualifying for treatment. That means not only will health service have to absorb them in terms of initiation of treatment but we will need to develop the capacity of the health service to retain larger numbers of people on treatment. It will also have to retain people and start people on treatment who might be feeling quite well. So that will bring with it new challenges,” said Reese.

Reese added that this is, however, a welcomed development as it might help decrease the number of new HIV infections in South Africa as people who are on treatment are less infectious. According to the latest UNAIDS gap report SA has the highest number of new infections in Sub-saharan Africa.

The new treatment regime was in line with guidelines adopted by the World Health Organisation (WHO) in 2013, which recommended that countries start treating HIV-positive patients on antiretroviral (ARV) drugs sooner.