Baltimore Sun (10.14.03) - Thursday, October 16, 2003
With an estimated 5.3 million HIV-positive people, South
Africa faces the challenge of creating the largest national
antiretroviral treatment program in the world. Six hundred
South Africans die of AIDS-related complications daily.
To meet the mammoth demands of a program that activists expect
the government to approve this year, the government needs to
train doctors, nurses, counselors and other health care
workers to treat and monitor patients; expand existing clinics
and laboratories; and build new ones.
Social factors, including poverty and the stigma attached to
HIV/AIDS, create other challenges to successful treatment.
Many HIV/AIDS patients are reluctant to reveal their status to
family and friends and so have little support for adhering to
strict treatment regimens. Activists believe a nationwide
education program should accompany the treatment plan.
"Who is going to support the people receiving treatment?"
asked Tembeka Majali, head of the Western Cape Province's
Treatment Action Campaign, the country's largest AIDS lobby
group. "We want support from the families, from the church
leaders, from the community leaders. We want support from
Although details of the treatment plan are sketchy, the price
tag is clear. A recent government study said the cost to treat
all HIV/AIDS patients in the country by 2010 would be $2.4
billion to $3 billion per year. The study also found that if
all South Africans who need treatment receive it by 2010, 1.7
million lives will be saved, and 860,000 children will not be
"I am very anxious. But it must happen," said Linda-Gail
Bekker, head of the University of Cape Town's Infectious
Diseases Unit. "We must find a way to do it."