South Africa, Johannesburg – The Democratic Alliance said on Thursday said that about 225,000 HIV/AIDS patients in Gauteng have halt their ARV treatment, while data suggests that the province is not doing well in suppressing the virus.
The health department partly blamed the drop on disruptions caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.
DA head of health in Gauteng Jack Bloom cited a second-quarter report tabled recently in the provincial legislature which showed 1,076,638 patients had remained on antiretroviral treatment against a target of 1,301,235.
“I am also concerned that new estimates from the Thembisa mathematical model of HIV in South Africa show that Gauteng is not doing well in suppressing the HIV virus in all affected people,” Bloom said in a statement.
The Thembisa model estimates that just 51.7 percent of all HIV-positive people in Gauteng are virally suppressed because of ARV treatment, the second-lowest rate among all of South Africa’s nine provinces.
Gauteng is only slightly better than North West province which sits at 49 percent while KwaZulu-Natal, at 66.4 percent, has the best indicator in this regard.
The United Nations’ so-called 90-90-90 targets aim for 90 percent of people living with HIV globally to be diagnosed, 90 percent of those diagnosed to receive sustained antiretroviral therapy, and 90 percent of those diagnosed to achieve viral suppression, which means there must be so little virus in their blood that a standard tests do not pick it up.
“Gauteng’s figures on these three targets are 89 percent, 66 percent and 88 percent respectively, which shows that the major failing is that only 66 percent instead of 90 percent of those who are diagnosed are receiving sustained ARV therapy,” Bloom said.
He noted that last year there were 72,000 AIDS-related deaths in South Africa, much higher than the 21,000 Covid-19 deaths recorded so far in 2020.
“We need to ensure that the disruption caused by Covid-19 does not lead to an increase in AIDS-related deaths, and it essential that proper tracing is done to ensure that all those who started ARV treatment remain on treatment,” the DA provincial legislator said.