South Africa implements HIV universal test, treatment programme

President Jacob Zuma of South Africa

President Jacob Zuma of South Africa

The South African government has started implementing the universal test and treatment programme, where every HIV positive person is put on treatment regardless of the CD4 cell count.

Joe Maila, Spokesperson of the Department of Health, said on Friday in Johannesburg that until Wednesday HIV-positive people with a CD4 cell count which are less than 500 were put on treatment.

He said that government believes the new measure would stop the transmission of HIV and also improve life expectancy in the country.

Maila said that the new initiative would lengthen the life expectancy to 70 by 2030, against the current life expectancy at 63.

“We have set ourselves a target as the government in line with our National Development Plan to increase life expectancy to 70 by 2030 from the current 63.

“This will also reduce the chances of HIV-positive people to pass on the virus to others when they are on treatment. In the long run, lives will be saved and money saved by this early treatment,” he said.

He said that the country has been having stock-outs in some areas, resulting with people defaulting on their treatment.

Maila said they have introduced a stock visibility system where patients can download it on their phones and report stock-outs when they experience them.

“About 11 percent of the females between the ages of 15 to 24 are HIV positive in the country.

“The Department of Health is now targeting the group with education to reduce the number.

“The government has also started providing sex workers with preventative treatment, known as pre-exposure prophylaxis to fight the disease,” he said.

Maila also said that the government has integrated strategy which also targets other killer diseases like tuberculosis, cancer and diabetes.

“We also target the vulnerable groups like the youths and women.”

“South Africa has the world’s biggest treatment program covering over 3.4 million people,” he said.

Maila said the universal test and treatment is part of government’s 90-90-90 plan which is an ambitious strategy to end the pandemic.

He revealed that under the plan, by 2020, 90 percent of all people living with HIV will know their HIV status.

Maila added that the same year, 90 percent of all people with diagnosed HIV infection would receive sustained antiretroviral therapy.

He said further that government also intend to ensure that 90 percent of all HIV-positive people receiving antiretroviral therapy would have viral suppression.

The WHO has recommended the test and treat guidelines for HIV patients to combat HIV in the World. It has put in place an HIV-free generation by 2030