Lack of Political Will, Drug Shortages Impede South African AIDS Drug Program, Study Says
A lack of political will and a shortage of antiretroviral drugs have impeded the rollout of South Africa's national antiretroviral drug program, according to a report released on Saturday by the South African treatment advocacy group Treatment Action Campaign and the AIDS Law Project of Johannesburg, South Africa's Witwatersrand University, AFP/Independent Online reports. TAC and ALP compiled the report -- the "First Monitoring Report of the Antiretroviral Rollout," which is the first to measure progress since the plan was announced in November 2003 -- using information from provincial health departments and from the South African Department of Health (AFP/Independent Online, 7/3). Officials expect 50,000 HIV-positive people to be on antiretroviral drugs by the end of the year and 1.4 million people to be on the drugs by 2009, at a total cost of $700 million (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 4/27). However, the report says that during the seven months after the plan was announced, less than 10,000 people have started treatment (AFP/Independent Online, 7/3). Sibani Mngadi, a spokesperson for South African Health Minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang, said that the number of people currently receiving antiretroviral treatment is less than 5,000, AFP/Yahoo! News reports. Mngadi also said that there are slightly more than 30 health facilities that provide antiretrovirals throughout South Africa, according to AFP/Yahoo! News (AFP/Yahoo! News, 7/6). Although the district and provincial governments have put a "great deal of effort" into implementing the program, the national government has not "matched" the effort, the report said. In addition, the report said that communication about the plan was "extremely weak," adding that the health department "violate[d] the right to access health care services by operating secretly and refusing to make important information available" (Health-e News, 7/5). For example, although lists of approved treatment sites are available on the internet and to the media, the list of treatment sites has not been published for "ordinary South Africans who have some access to radio, television and/or newspapers," the report said, adding that television advertisements about the program have "disappeared" ("First Monitoring Report of the Antiretroviral Rollout," 7/3).This is part of the Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.