#WorldAidsDay: The secret behind our HIV treatment success
A study published this month in PLoS ONE, an international science and medical journal, analysed the cost of the national South African HIV treatment programme and estimated the expected cost and impact of treatment guidelines issued by the World Health Organisation between 2009 and 2016.
The researchers found that overall, the annual cost for ART would continue to increase until universal treatment is implemented and reaches full coverage around 2024.
Lead author Gesine Meyer-Rath, research assistant professor of global health at Boston University, said they discovered that good maths leads to good policy.
"The paper summarises our close collaboration with the SA Department of Health and Treasury over the last eight years, which resulted in us helping to change public policy - an unusual situation for an academic.” She said many factors had contributed to the expansion of the HIV treatment in South Africa over the last 10 years.
“With the political will demonstrated by the current minister of health being the most important, our model supported the process by allowing the Department of Health to submit budget bids to the Treasury that were based on precise estimates of patients in need of treatment and overall costs.”
With almost four million patients, the South African national public-sector antiretroviral treatment programme is the largest in the world. The cost of this programme remains one of the major challenges confronting the government.
The researchers predicted a reduction in the annual costs by 2024 as the programme reaches universal coverage and successful, large-scale treatment reduces new HIV infections.
Research officer at the national Department of Health, Nthabiseng Khoza, said they had supported the department with calculating the required budget for HIV interventions since 2009.
“Resource mobilisation was not an easy process without knowing how much was required. We designed and introduced the National ART cost model. This was a major step in helping the department to answer key questions that were asked by all funders, including the National Treasury.
"Audit outcomes for the department have improved as a result of this partnership,” said Khoza.