South Africa to offer HIV treatment for all
The South African government has committed to offering HIV treatment to all people living with HIV in the country by September 2016. The announcement will bring South Africa, which already has the world’s largest HIV treatment programme, up-to-date with the latest World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines on treatment.
It is now widely recognised that starting treatment earlier, before the CD4 count falls too low, results in better health outcomes for people living with HIV. The new test and treat strategy will eliminate the need for additional CD4 count testing after diagnosis to determine eligibility for treatment.
The expanded treatment programme will cost South Africa an estimated $66 million, which it will take from its own domestic budget. It is the second major treatment announcement from the country this year, after it announced in March that it will offer pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) for sex workers, in what was described as a progressive plan.
UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibé said, “South Africa takes another bold step towards ending its AIDS epidemic by 2030, once again demonstrating that scientific evidence, paired with political will, saves lives.”
Despite the advancements made in treatment, the number of people newly infected with HIV in South Africa remains high – in 2014, an estimated 340,000 people became infected with the virus.