Tamar Kahn, Science and Health Editor Business Day
The department previously said 500000 to 800000 of the 5,54-million South Africans with HIV needed AIDS drugs. The health department yesterday said the latest analysis showed that 235378 people had initiated treatment at 273 sites in the two-and-a-half years since government began providing AIDS drugs.
Another 90000-100000 patients were receiving drugs from the private sector, according to the Southern African HIV Clinicians Society.
The number of service points is being increased in line with the goal of providing quality treatment to all qualifying HIV-positive patients in an equitable manner, the department said.
The HIV clinicians society president, Dr Francois Venter, questioned the figures, saying they were a surprisingly sharp increase on the 178635 people the department had reported as being on treatment at the end of June.
Thats about another 55000 people in four or five months, he said. The rate of enrolment at SAs large public hospitals had remained unchanged during that period.
He suggested that about a fifth of HIV-positive patients in need of treatment were getting AIDS drugs.
The Sunday Times earlier this month reported that government planned to make AIDS drugs available to 650000 people by 2011, citing a draft of governments latest AIDS strategy, which was to be released next month.
Health department spokesman Sibane Mngadi said waiting lists around the country, which government has previously said include about 30000 people, suggested demand for AIDS drugs was relatively low. However, numerous studies had shown that many HIV-positive South Africans were unaware that they had been infected.
* Tracking progress - Living with AIDS - Health E
* Nearly 6 000 die while on ARVs in past 2 years - SABC News
* More than 235 000 benefiting from ARV programme - Department of Health
* Antiretroviral roll-out on course, says ministry - Mail and Guardian