The roll-out follows an announcement in November last year by Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi of a R5.9 billion tender award. The Minister had said "the majority of South Africans on state-sponsored ARV treatment for HIV would, from April 2013, need only one tablet instead of the current three per day".
Motsoaledi added that South Africa had managed to reduce the cost of the tender - for a single dose of the triple combination of tenofovir, entricitabine and efavirenz - by 38%, a massive saving of R2.2 billion.
It is said clinical studies had shown that fixed-dose combination drugs (FDCs) improved patients' treatment adherence, which would improve treatment outcomes and reduce onward transmission of HIV. FDCs would also make prescribing, dispensing and monitoring treatment easier for nurses and pharmacists.
Rolling out drugs in FDC formulations will have significantly positive implications to help keep patients adherent to their life-long treatment. The fixed-dose antiretrovirals would not only benefit patients but also relieve the burden on the South African health system by simplifying the ordering and monitoring of ARV stocks.
Priority will be given to:
- new patients who need ARVs.
- pregnant women that are HIV positive
- HIV positive women who are breastfeeding
- HIV-positive people who are not able to take the one ARV pill because of a medical condition will be advised by their health provider.
Over time all patients that can take the one ARV pill will receive it after they have been assessed