Integrated Regional Information Networks - February 27, 2012
JOHANNESBURG, 27 February 2012 (PlusNews) - Mothers, babies and
newly diagnosed HIV patients are receiving more of the services
they need but progress comes at a cost, according to a new report
that predicts a funding shortfall for HIV treatment in South
On 23 February, the Health Systems Trust released the latest
versions of its annual District Health Barometer and South
African Health Review.
Although in its sixth year of publication, this year's barometer
is the first to include data on early infant HIV testing for
babies born to HIV-positive mothers and shows that about half of
all babies born to HIV-positive mothers are now being tested for
the virus at six weeks of age, an important step to ensuring they
access the early HIV treatment recommended for all children
younger than one under national guidelines. In 2009, only about a
quarter of such babies were being tested using the sensitive
polymerase chain reaction - tests that confirm whether
HIV-exposed infants are HIV-positive.
The report also found that almost all pregnant women are now
tested for HIV, which has helped lower mother-to-child HIV
transmission to below 4 percent in the country.
The latest barometer is also the first to include data on
tuberculosis (TB) screening among newly diagnosed HIV patients.
In 2008, only about a third of new HIV patients were screened for
TB; in 2011 about 70 percent were checked.
People who have both HIV and carry latent TB are up to 30 times
more likely to develop active TB as their HIV-negative peers and
TB remains the leading cause of death in South Africa and among
people living with HIV worldwide.
The HST also launched the South African Health Review, an
independent review of the public health sector funded by the
South African government. While the report notes that HIV/AIDS
spending has increased substantially since 2007, it predicts the
country will need up to US$5.3 billion extra every year to
sustain its HIV/AIDS response, particularly treatment.
The review notes that this year alone the government will spend
about $3.1 million on HIV and AIDS; less than a fourth of this
comes from donors such as the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and
Malaria or the US President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief
The South African government already shoulders about 80 percent
of its HIV treatment costs domestically and authors of the review
predict that treatment will be the main driver of the escalating
costs of the country's HIV/AIDS response.
In late 2009, the World Health Organization revised its HIV
treatment guidelines to recommend that people living with HIV
start treatment sooner, at CD4 counts - a measure of the immune
system's strength - of 350 or below. Since then, South Africa has
gradually fallen into line, first extending earlier treatment to
at-risk groups, such as pregnant women and TB patients in 2010
and finally to all patients in 2011. While activists bemoaned the
wait, policy-makers argued they had to make sure the country,
which shoulders about 80 percent of its treatment costs
domestically, could afford it.
As of March 2011, about 1.5 million people were on ARVs in South
Africa. The review expects that number to rise to about three
million by 2015.