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Allowing pharmacists to give drugs for HIV and TB welcomed

The cocktail of ARVs that was taken before they introduced one pill, consisted of Cipla Lamivudine, Avro Efavirenz and Das Lamivudine. Photo: Matthew Jordaan

The cocktail of ARVs that was taken before they introduced one pill, consisted of Cipla Lamivudine, Avro Efavirenz and Das Lamivudine. Photo: Matthew Jordaan

Published Aug 30, 2023


Durban — A civic organisation, activists and the SA Pharmacy Council have welcomed a high court ruling allowing pharmacists to prescribe medications to HIV and TB patients.

The Treatment Action Campaign, the South African Pharmacy Council and activists said the ruling would ease the burden on the “congested” health-care system.

The Gauteng High Court in Pretoria recently gave the go-ahead for specially trained pharmacists to initiate and administer antiretroviral therapy.

However, the pharmacists must have a special permit to dispense the Schedule 4 medication, which, according to South African law, should only be prescribed by a doctor.

In a statement, the Pharmacy Council said the programme has already been successfully implemented in other countries and will help South Africa reach HIV management targets.

“We believe the programme will also help ease the burden on the country’s congested health-care system, allowing patients who are diagnosed the opportunity to be initiated sooner,” read the statement.

The TAC said: “The challenges we are facing in the country include people queuing for a long time in facilities, and also the attitude of nurses in health facilities which chases away so many people from facilities’.

TAC spokesperson Xabisa Qwabe said they have an issue with key populations (people who use drugs, sex workers and LGBTQIA+ communities) that are not comfortable going to public health facilities to access medication.

She said South Africa was also chasing the UNAIDS's target to end HIV/ Aids by 2030, using the benchmark of 95-95-95 target, and South Africa has not achieved the UNAIDS target of ensuring that 95% of all people living with HIV are tested and know their status, that 95% of those seek and have access to uninterrupted treatment, and that 95% of those are virally suppressed. The country currently sits on 94-77-92.

“This is due to many issues including lack of access to antiretroviral therapy. Therefore, the court ruling is contributing towards the ambitious trajectory of ending HIV by 2030.”

According to Statistics South Africa, over 8.45 million people are HIV positive, while only 6.11 million are on antiretrovirals.

Mpho Mbeki-Ntoni an HIV activist who is also living with HIV and a founder of the Women Arising Movement, said the court ruling was a “big yes” considering the long queues and stigma people were subjected to.

“The only part I’m worried about is how are they going to monitor the viral loads of the patients buying over the counter,” said Mbeki-Ntoni.

She said besides collecting the medication at the clinics and hospitals, there is a lot that is done to measure and monitor the way the medication is dealing with each person’s body.

“Blood samples are a very integral part of administering the ARVs because this is where you’ll be able to pinpoint that particular regimen of medication is working properly for that person. Things like viral loads, weight loss are all the things monitored in a face-to-face consultation.”

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