South Africa has found a breakthrough pricing agreement that will speed up the availability of the first affordable, generic and single-pill HIV treatment programme.
Health Minister, Dr Aaron Motsoaledi, has collaborated with a number of international organisations and agencies to reach the breakthrough.
"The new fixed dose combination will be available to low and middle-income countries (LMICs) at a reduced price of US$75 per person, per year.
"South Africa will introduce the new fixed dose combination of three drugs, Tenofovir, Lamivudine and Dolutegravir (TLD) in April 2018.
"It is projected this new regimen, at the price announced, will save South Africa about R11 billion over the next six years," said the department in a statement.
The large volumes of ARVs purchased by South Africa were used to leverage the decrease in pricing that will benefit all low and middle income countries. The agreement is expected to accelerate treatment rollout as part of global efforts to reach all 36.7 million people living with HIV with high-quality antiretroviral therapy.
The announcement will have profound implications for the HIV treatment programme in South Africa's public health sector.
The department said the HIV programme has grown from 923 000 patients on treatment in 2009 to 3.9 million patients on treatment as of the end of August this year.
In September 2016, Minister Motsoaledi announced the roll-out of the test and treat initiative with the aim to have six million HIV positive patients on treatment by 2022.
"Apart from the financial savings, which will decrease pressure on our national fiscus, its introduction will also have significant benefits for patients.
"Dolutegravir is a highly effective antiretroviral, which is well tolerated by patients and has fewer side effects. Patients are therefore more likely to be adherent and more likely to be virally suppressed, which means that they are not likely to transmit the virus to others," the department said.
The South African government has been working on this ground breaking pricing agreement together with the government of Kenya, in partnership with the Clinton Health Access Initiative (CHAI), the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF), UNITAID, the United Kingdom's Department for International Development (DFID), the United States President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), the US Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.
Minister Motsoaledi has expressed excitement over the agreement.
"I am excited about this innovative agreement, which will allow the government of South Africa to accelerate the introduction of the dolutegravir-based fixed-dose combination, which will greatly benefit our patients due to its superior therapeutic qualities.
"The considerable price reductions could yield savings of up to R11.7 billion over the next six years for us, which means that we can initiate additional patients on treatment with the same amount of resources. Ramping up treatment with good viral suppression will enable us to reach HIV epidemic control more quickly. We are aiming at launching the new tender in April 2018."
The department said South Africa's commitment to make TLD available to patients was key to securing this ground-breaking pricing agreement.