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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, April 12, 2013 - Volume 41 Issue 15
Making AIDS affordable - South Africa announces $10 per month HIV meds
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Making AIDS affordable - South Africa announces $10 per month HIV meds

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

South Africa's Minister of Health announced on April 8 that his country had acquired a supply of a one-a-day antiretroviral drug (ARV) at a record low price, enabling the government to provide it to HIV patients for only $10 per month.

The pill will be introduced this month to HIV-positive pregnant women and breastfeeding mothers, people co-infected with TB, and to new HIV patients. Patients currently being treated with other drugs will be assessed by doctors and, when appropriate, will start switching to the new meds later this year.

The drug is reported to be the three-in-one combo Atripla, which retails for about $2,000 a month in the United States.

'Before 2010, we were buying the most expensive ARVs in the world. Now we are a country where the ARVs are the cheapest in the world,' said Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi.

'It means we can increase the number of people on treatment,' he added.

South Africa currently has some 1.9 million people on treatment out of a total HIV-positive population of 5.6 million.

AN EASIER REGIMEN
The South African National AIDS Council said that the simplicity of the one-a-day dosage would encourage patients to stay on treatment.

'This is simplifying the way patients have become used to taking ARV treatment,' said the council's CEO, Fareed Abdullah.

'We have come a very long way since the advent of antiretrovirals. At one point, patients used to take up to 16 pills a day,' he added.

'You're just going to take it once, and it's just going to be less pill burden,' HIV patient Andrew Mosani told BBC News. 'People are tired [of] taking many drugs on a day-to-day basis.'

Former South African president Thabo Mbeki was an HIV 'denier,' who believed AIDS-related symptoms could be cured with herbal remedies. But under his successor, Jacob Zuma, the country now runs the largest antiretroviral drug programs in the world. According to South African health officials, their aggressive approach has increased life expectancy for HIV-positive people to 60 years.

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