Durban - The Department of Health was working on improving the supply of antiretroviral (ARVs) drugs to South Africa’s 3 000 health facilities, Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi said.

This would entail doing away with central drug depots and delivering drugs from suppliers to hospitals and clinics.

He was responding to claims by the Southern African HIV Clinicians Society this week that there were shortages of ARVs at government facilities which were forcing doctors to prioritise treating weaker patients over those who were more stable.

The society also raised concerns that there could be shortages of the new single dose combination ARV drug that is due to be rolled out next month.

“Sometimes you find people saying there is a shortage, but find that it is the depot that has not delivered to the hospital,” Motsoaledi said.

He said the tender for the new single dose ARVs was awarded last year to 10 companies

, and that the roll-out would see a decrease in the costs to treat people with HIV.

The new three-in-one combination pill would cost R89, as opposed to the R400 it costs the state to treat each patient.

Speaking at uMlazi’s Mangosuthu University of Technology during the launch of a national programme to test 100 000 students for HIV this year, he admitted, however, that running the largest HIV/Aids treatment programme in the world had its challenges.

The minister said that South Africans consumed about 25 percent of ARVs produced worldwide, and, therefore, logistical glitches were expected.

On HIV/Aids, Motsoaledi told students at the university that prevention remained the most potent weapon in the fight against the disease.

He expressed concerns, however, that of the 20 million South Africans who tested for HIV/Aids since April 2010, only 30 percent were men. Motsoaledi urged men to come forward and get tested and also to get circumcised.

KwaZulu-Natal Health MEC Sibongiseni Dhlomo said his department would intensify its “anti-sugar daddy campaign”, which seeks to discourage sexual relations between older men and girls.

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