Minister of Health’s action will bring South Africa in line with World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines for starting antiretroviral treatment (ART) for patients with a CD4 count of less than 500
DURBAN, SOUTH AFRICA (1 August 2014) AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF), the largest global AIDS organization which currently provides medical care and services to over 319,000 individuals in 34 countries worldwide—including over 51,000 patients at 34 clinics in South Africa—today lauded the South African Government and its Ministry of Health for its recent decision to expand the criteria for starting HIV positive individuals on lifesaving antiretroviral treatment (ART) much earlier in the course of their infection.
The action will also bring South Africa in line with World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines for starting antiretroviral treatment (ART) for patients with a CD4 count of less than 500. A CD4 count of 350 or below has been the previous benchmark starting a patient on ART in South Africa and many other countries worldwide. Beginning January 2015, the South African Government will recognize the new 500 CD4 count as the benchmark to commence ART.
“We applaud the announcement made last week by Dr. Aaron Motsoaledi, the Minister for Health in South Africa, regarding the adoption and implementation of the 2013 WHO guidelines with effect from January 2015,” said Dr. Penninah Iutung Amor, Africa Bureau Chief for AIDS Healthcare Foundation. “South Africa’s leadership and commitment to curbing the AIDS epidemic and bold decision to treat many more patients at this higher CD4 threshold will lead to many more lives being saved.”
“South Africa has been leading the way in Africa with a committed and necessary scale-up up of both HIV testing and treatment. We know that one in three of all the 35 million people living with HIV reside in three countries – South Africa, Nigeria and India,” said Terri Ford, Chief of Global Policy and Advocacy for AIDS Healthcare Foundation. “This new official vow to treat all in need in South Africa at the WHO recommended initiation of 500 CD4 counts is incredibly important and we applaud the South African Government for its leadership in this arena.”
The South African newspaper, The New Age, reported, “As from January 2015, we shall start HIV-positive patients on treatment at CD4 count of less than 500 as against the CD4 count of less than 350,” Motsoaledi announced during his budget vote speech in Parliament. The new treatment regime was in line with guidelines adopted by the World Health organisation (WHO) in 2013, which recommended that countries start treating HIV-positive patients on antiretroviral (ARV) drugs sooner. In addition, South Africa would no longer terminate the treatment of HIV-positive women when they stopped breastfeeding their infants.”