A new dawn for antiretrovirals

BMJ 2005; 330 doi: (Published 10 February 2005) Cite this as: BMJ 2005;330:371
  1. Rebecca Kay Sutherland, specialist registrar (
  1. Department of Microbiology, John Radcliffe Hospital, Oxford

Last year may be remembered as the year when antiretroviral drugs began to be available to people living in Africa. I worked in South Africa's KwaZulu-Natal region last year and was involved in setting up one of the first antiretroviral clinics.

KwaZulu-Natal, which stretches along the east coast of South Africa, is renowned for some of the most beautiful scenery in the country, but it also holds a much bleaker claim to fame. It has the highest prevalence of HIV-1 infection in South Africa, with 38% of people testing HIV positive at the end of 2003, according to health department statistics. On the medical wards in Ngwelezane Hospital the prevalence of AIDS was about 80%.

Every evening a stream of skeletal young people would arrive at the hospital doors. Doctors and nurses who have seen the HIV epidemic grow over the years often turned department was reserved for trauma, of which there was plenty in the form of gunshot wounds, stabbings, and injuries from traffic collisions. …

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