South Africa to Provide More AIDS Drugs

Posted August 13th, 2011 at 6:50 pm (UTC-5)
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The South African government has expanded its AIDS program to allow people who have the HIV virus to start antiretroviral treatment earlier.

South Africa's Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe says all HIV patients will be put on life-saving antiretroviral drugs when their white blood cell level, known as their CD4 count, drops to 350.

Previously, state facilities offered the treatment only to patients with a CD4 count of 200 or less, as well as pregnant woman and those with certain other illnesses.

Officials say the change will cost the government around $700 million during the first year.

Earlier this month, South African health officials said they are preparing to propose a national health insurance plan aimed at improving health care services for the poor.

Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi says the goal of the plan, known as NHI, is to ensure that everyone in the country receives essential healthcare, regardless of their employment status or ability to make a direct financial contribution.

The health ministry estimates that 84 percent of South Africa's population depends on public hospitals and clinics.