The Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) and trade union federation Cosatu have devised a firm set of recommendations for government to tackle the AIDS
crisis head on.
Their proposals, which included the provision of antiretroviral medicines to AIDS patients attending public healthcare facilities, would place the state
under increased pressure to deliver on its cabinet statement of April 17, said African National Congress (ANC) health secretary Saadiq
The statement expressed a dramatic shift in government's policy on
antiretrovirals, saying it that they could help improve the condition of people living with HIV/AIDS.
The Cosatu-TAC treatment plan was developed at an AIDS conference in Durban last week. It drew more than 800 delegates from nongovernmental
organisations, religious groupings, trade unions and the scientific sector.
The plan will shortly be tabled at the National Economic Development and Labour Council for discussion, and will also be submitted to the SA National
AIDS Council, which is chaired by Deputy President Jacob Zuma.
Kariem said that, although government was conspicuous by its absence at the conference, the fact that the TAC and Cosatu had developed a structured
treatment plan acknowledging the fiscal constraints on the provision of antiretroviral drugs would make it difficult for government to dismiss their
demands for increased access to treatment.
At present patients can buy antiretroviral medicines privately, and the TAC estimates that 20 000 people access such treatment via medical schemes. A
limited number of public hospitals and clinics provide drugs for preventing the transmission of HIV from mother to child, as well as HIV drugs for rape
victims, but the state does not provide antiretroviral medicines for people suffering from HIV/AIDS.
In the few public healthcare facilities providing antiretrovirals, the provision is made under the auspices of externally funded research projects.
TAC spokesman Nathan Geffen said that the treatment plan proposed two pilot sites a province. The TAC estimated that this would cost R10 000 a person
for each year, at current drug prices, but if government were able to access cheaper generic medicines, the annual cost per person could be reduced to R7
000, he said.
If 2-million people were treated at the height of the epidemic, the antiretroviral part of the treatment programme would cost in the region of
R14bn annually, he said.
Geffen said that the TAC was still finalising its costing models, but believed that it was more cost effective to treat people than to let them
get sick and die.
He said that the provision of antiretroviral medicines was just one part of the plan, which also recommended the nationwide provision of voluntary
counselling and testing, providing Nevirapine to prevent mother-to-child transmission of HIV, and providing post-exposure prophylaxis for rape
victims, as well as improving the availability of essential drugs for treating herpes.
Geffen said that the plan was intended to complement government's existing five-year plan for tackling HIV/AIDS. (Source: Business Day, 1 July 2002)