Minister of Health Zweli Mkhize launched a new HIV treatment at Turton Community Health Centre in Ugu district in KwaZulu-Natal yesterday.
The Ugu district has been identified as the epicentre of the disease, with 27% of the 3.1 million people living in the district being affected. It also faces one of the highest prevalence of HIV among pregnant women, with 43.4% being HIV-positive.
The new state-of-the-art treatment will provide patients with the most affordable and effective treatment with fewer side-effects, while also being easier to take.
Lelio Marmora, the executive director of Unitaid, a global health initiative, said the treatment will help one in five people in the world who are on HIV medication to be able to switch to a simpler treatment.
“Because about 20% of the world’s Aids patients live in South Africa, the introduction of the new treatment there is expected to have a far-reaching impact,” Marmora said. “SA also accounts for more than 10% of all HIV-related deaths and 15% of new infections.”
The treatment, TLD, is cheaper, with fewer side-effects compared to the current mainstay treatment. But it is unsafe for women in their first six weeks of pregnancy.
Marmora said patients are more likely to stick with the new treatment.
“When patients drop treatments or do not take them correctly, drug-resistant microbes develop. Patients must then turn to second-line drugs, which can be expensive,” said Marmora.
The initial rollout will be in six provinces – KwaZulu-Natal, Gauteng, Free State, Limpopo, Mpumalanga, and Eastern Cape – with the remainder expected to follow suit.
The department of health will begin the rollout of TLD on World Aids Day, December 1.
According to recent statistics from United Nations Programmes on HIV/Aids (UNAids), SA has the largest HIV treatment programme in the world which has affected an estimated 7.7 million people.
African Community Advisor Board coordinator Kenley Sikwese said switching to effective treatment has allowed him to once again function, after suffering from lethargy with other medications.
“Creating better HIV medicines, tests and prevention methods is one thing, but getting them to people in African countries is whole process,” said Sikwese.
BroadReach Consulting has supported the department towards achieving their 90-90-90 targets through data-driven insights to strengthen their decision-making related to health programme management and implementation.
The ‘90-90-90’ targets require that:
- By 2020, 90% of all people living with HIV will know their HIV status;
- 90% of people with diagnosed HIV will receive sustained antiretroviral therapy;
- 90% of all people receiving antiretroviral therapy will have viral suppression.
Dr John Sargent, managing director of Vantage Technologies and cofounder of the BroadReach Group, said through embracing the power of data, they have been able to “focus attention on interventions that have real impact and guide their teams to success to save more lives”.