World Aids Day: MSF responds to UNAIDS report on access to HIV treatment

Despite significantly improved access to ARVs, major challenges remain to reduce HIV/AIDS mortality in South Africa

Monday, November 20, 2017 — KHAYELITSHA, CAPE TOWN - As World AIDS Day approaches on 1 December, UNAIDS today launched Right to Health, a new report which highlights the importance of ensuring access to health care for all, and mentions the substantial progress South Africa has made in scaling up antiretroviral (ARV) treatment to 4.2 million people.

In response, Doctors Without Borders (MSF) Medical Coordinator for South Africa, Dr. Amir Shroufi stated:

Despite significantly improved access to ARVs, major challenges remain to reduce HIV/AIDS mortality in South Africa from an unacceptably high 180,000 deaths a year [1]. In order to reach the 40% of people living with HIV who still have not started ARVs, scaling up public access to new tools such as self-tests will be necessary. 

“In Khayelitsha—one of the oldest treatment programs in sub-Saharan Africa—around a third of people on ARVs for 10 years have disengaged from care at some point. HIV services across South Africa must be adapted to better retain people in care, and support the return of those who stop accessing services.

“Longer prescription times, and having community pick-up points or organized support groups for receiving medication can allow people to choose what works best for them at a given point in time during their lifelong treatment journey. 

“Clinic staff must be equipped with skills to welcome back people who may have temporarily stopped taking treatment, and to screen for and recognize when patients have advanced HIV or opportunistic infections. In the context of under-resourced environments, nurses and lay counsellors must be capacitated to support this work.

“MSF calls on UNAIDS to include mortality reduction targets in reporting and monitoring, and help governments like South Africa’s focus on and invest in measures to achieve these goals.”

 

NOTES

[1] UNAIDS. Prevention gap report, 2016. http://www.unaids.org/en/resources/documents/2016/prevention-gap