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KZN plans to reduce long wait for ARVs

KwaZulu-Natal intends doing away with long waiting lists for life-prolonging antiretroviral drugs in the province’s public hospitals, provincial health minister Dr Sibongiseni Dhlomo said on Monday.

”The department is implementing roving teams which consist of doctors and nurses who visit clinics to prepare people to be enrolled in the antiretroviral drugs treatment,” Dhlomo said in Durban, ahead of World Aids Day on Tuesday.

The programme was started by a few hospitals in Umkhanyakude in northern KwaZulu-Natal and had reduced waiting time for ARVs drastically.

”We have implemented the same strategy at Edendale Hospital in Pietermaritzburg and the problem of long wait for drugs has been solved. We are in the process of rolling it out to other districts because it reduces unnecessary waiting, which leads to death.”

Earlier this year Edendale Hospital was unable to deal with the influx of people who needed HIV treatment. By that time, there were about 2 000 people desperately waiting for ARVs.

The backlog had been done away with, Dhlomo said.

”We want to make sure that the HIV treatment is not only available in hospitals, but also clinics … We want people to get the whole package at the clinics near them.”

KwaZulu-Natal has the highest number of HIV-positive people in South Africa. Of the 700 000 people on antiretroviral treatment in South Africa, a third are in KwaZulu-Natal.

A recent assessment revealed that about 115 000 more people should be on ARV treatment in the province. The province would need R1,4-million more to ensure all those who needed drugs were on the treatment programme.

”We believe that it is better to treat them early, because it reduces costs involved in treating them when they are seriously ill.”

The province wanted to start enrolling the 115 000 HIV-positive people on treatment as early as January.

Dhlomo said a recent study conducted by the University of KwaZulu-Natal had revealed shocking statistics about the HIV prevalence among young people in the province.

”The study has revealed that when boys and girls enter high school level they contract HIV. Boys do not quickly get it, but girls do because of older men who lure them with gifts and money in exchange for sex.”

He described this as the ”sugar daddy syndrome” and said older men refused to use condoms.

”Sometimes they ask girls to choose between using condoms and getting expensive gifts such as cellphones and airtime.”

The problem could only be solved if religious and political leaders, parents and NGOs worked together to teach young girls about the dangers of unprotected sex.

Dhlomo would celebrate World Aids Day in Dannhauser, where he was expected to encourage people to test for HIV. — Sapa

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