Aids Task Team About to Complete Its Work
March 20, 2003
Posted to the web March 20, 2003
Cabinet says the team tasked with
investigating resource implications for providing anti-AIDS
drug to people living with HIV/AIDS in South Africa, is about
to complete its work.
Last year in April, government
established a joint technical task team comprising the health
department and Treasury, to look into these issues, including
comprehensive costs and benefits of various AIDS treatment
This after government had reaffirmed the
position that antiretrovirals (ARVs) could improve the health
of people living with HIV/AIDS 'if administered at an
appropriate stage in the progression of the condition in
accordance with international standards'.
At that time government stated that it
would continue to address the barriers to introduce ARV
therapy, including high drug prices, weaknesses in health
infrastructure and concerns around treatment compliance.
Updating the nation on the
implementation of the strategic plan against yesterday,
Cabinet said it would consider the findings of the task team
and any policy option that could have major costs ought to be
The update also included the prevention
of HIV transmission from mother-to-child, the expansion of
home-based care and progress towards finding a vaccine against
'Government must ensure that its
programmes are sustainable. Hence no discussions on such
issues, such as those that commenced in Nedlac in September
2002, could be completed without Cabinet having first
pronounced on the key issues involved.'
Government has been accused of failure
to sign a Nedlac framework agreement on a national AIDS
Cosatu, including the drug lobby group,
the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) wants government to set up
a national treatment plan to provide universal treatment with
antiretrovirals to people living with HIV/AIDS.
Reacting to this accusation, government
said there had not been any agreement signed in this regard,
adding it would continue to work with Nedlac constituencies to
strenghthen the partnership against AIDS.
Government also announced that the team
would investigate how cost-effectively it could provide these
drugs. It is estimated the drugs could cost government at
least R7-billion a year.
Regarding other work that had been done,
Cabinet said there had been some other important developments
to support the safe and effective use of ARVs in the country.
For instance, the Medicines Control
Council (MCC) in partnership with the Medical University of
South Africa (Medunsa) had created a system to monitor the
safety of antiretrovirals in use in the country.
The system would also record and
investigate any serious adverse reactions to drugs of this
'This monitoring system will draw on
experience already gained doing similar work in relation to
vaccines in partnership with the University of Cape Town.'
Cabinet said there was a growing body of
experience in relation ARV therapy (ART) in the country.
This existed in the private sector, in
workplace programmes and in a fair number of clinical trials
being conducted among public sector patients by various
About the costs of ARVs, Cabinet said
the prices remained high and the cost of essential tests to
monitor those in therapy was also considerable.
However, the Medicines Control Amendment
Act would come into force this year to facilitate the purchase
of medicines at cheaper prices.
In addition, the MCC had registered some
generic ARVs and multinational companies had granted voluntary
licences for South African companies to manufacture several
'This may lead to lower prices in the
medium term,' said Cabinet.
South Africa also continued to apply
itself, despite resistance from some industrialised countries,
to securing an appropriate World Trade Organisation (WTO)
agreement to facilitate developing countries' access to
essential medicines for major health problems including
HIV/AIDS, TB and malaria.
'Such an agreement would give further
substance to the statement issued by the WTO in Doha a year
ago on the relationship between intellectual property rights
and access to medicines in health emergencies.'
Within Africa's recovery plan, Nepad,
Cabinet said there was a programme for a number of African
countries to urgently work with pharmaceutical companies to
manufacture on the continent, affordable drugs for
life-threatening diseases, including HIV/AIDS and TB.
'Successful treatment by antiretrovirals
requires regular laboratory tests to monitor the condition of
the immune system. We will continue to work to reduce the high
current costs of tests.'