Intended for healthcare professionals


Cheaper antiretrovirals to treat AIDS in South Africa

BMJ 2000; 320 doi: (Published 10 June 2000) Cite this as: BMJ 2000;320:1551

They are at their most cost effective in preventing mother to child transmission

  1. Karen Zwi, senior lecturer,
  2. Neil Söderlund, senior researcher,
  3. Helen Schneider, director
  1. Division of Community Paediatrics, University of the Witwatersrand
  2. Centre for Health Policy, University of the Witwatersrand
  3. Centre for Health Policy, PO Box 1038, Johannesburg 2000, South Africa

    Many countries in sub-Saharan Africa are overwhelmed by a pandemic of HIV and AIDS that is reducing life expectancy by two decades, reversing gains made in infant mortality and increasing the burden on health resources that are already overstretched. South Africa is no exception. The government, AIDS activists, healthcare professionals, and communities are desperate to find a universal solution or “magic bullet.” Triple combination therapy has dramatically widened the gulf in people's experience of HIV and AIDS, depending on whether they live in the North or the South. Not surprisingly, activists, both local and international, have persistently called for a substantial lowering of the prices of antiretroviral and other expensive drugs needed to treat people with AIDS.

    What would reducing the price of antiretrovirals mean for South Africa in its battle against HIV and AIDS? It is important to distinguish between using antiretroviral drugs to prevent mother to child transmission and to treat adults infected with HIV. Interventions to reduce vertical transmission are highly effective in preventing …

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