Thursday, August 09, 2007

South African Health Minister Says Antiretroviral Drugs to Increase 500 Percent in Price

DURBAN 7 August 2007 Sapa


New generation antiretroviral drugs (ARVs) could cost 500 percent
more than those now being dispensed by the health department, Health Minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang said on Tuesday.

Speaking at the opening of the Women in Partnership Against Aids,
Tshabalala-Msimang said: "The reduction of prices of medicines is a
critical concern. Of concern is the fact that new generation ARVs may
cost 500 percent more."

Tshabalala did not elaborate on the increases, but said that 76 per
cent of health districts were now distributing ARVs.

She said the government was promoting research into traditional
medicine "and how it can help in the fight against Aids. We believe
traditional medicines can have an important role."

Close to 300,000 people will be on the government's antiretroviral
programme by the end of 2007, but the minister cautioned that
government could not control how people behave in taking medicines or their "risky behaviour".

"It remains the responsibility of people to modify risky behaviour.
Government cannot do this for people."

She urged parents to be more involved with the attitudes of their
children, and welcomed a recent report that showed the HIV prevalence rate in the 15-to-24-year-old age groups had shown a slight drop.

Citing the recently released Report on National HIV and Syphilis
Prevalence Survey, she said the infection rate had dropped from 15.9
percent in 2005 to 13.7 percent in 2006. The 20-to-24-year-old age
group had shown a decrease from 30.6 percent to 28 percent.

"This finding suggests a sustained change in attitudes. We still
need to strengthen our programmes," she said, adding that increases in the 30-to-39-year-old age group was "a cause for concern".

She said the department was discussing with the treasury an
increased budget for the distribution of condoms. More than 380 million condoms were being distributed annually, including femidoms.

She pointed out that condoms cost 22 cents each while femidoms cost the state R8 each.

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