#AIDS2016: Great news for stable patients
More than six million South Africans living with HIV are now eligible for antiretroviral medicine, thanks to government’s new policy of “HIV test and treat” – but this patient volume could overwhelm clinics.
As a result, the Department of Health is working on plans to enable stable HIV positive patients with undetectable viral loads to get their ARVs from outside the clinics.
“Where a person’s viral load is undetectable and they are stable, we want to decant about 1.6 million patients into the Chronic Medicine Distribution Programme, so they can get their ARVs sent to them via courier,” says Dr Yogan Pillay, deputy director-general of health.
“By the end of the 2016/17 financial year, we aim to have around 800 000 people getting their medicine by courier. If we can’t decant them and get their medicine to them, they will default when they don’t have transport money. It will also decrease the volume of patients on our facilities so that health workers can give more time to the sick patients.”
The department is also putting effort into setting up adherence clubs, both to encourage people to keep taking their ARVs for life, and to distribute ARVs to people. The NDoH’s current aim is for 40% of people on ART to receive their ART through adherence clubs.
Medicins sans Frontieres (Doctors without Borders) piloted ARV adherence clubs in Khayelitsha, Cape Town, to make it easier for people to get their ARVs and to relieve clinics.
The clubs are made up of not more than 30 people who have been on ARVs for at least a year, are stable and virally suppressed. Each club has a co-ordinator, usually a lay counsellor or peer educator. Some clubs meet at clinics, while others meet at community venues or club members’ homes.
All club members see a nurse twice a year: once for blood tests, and then two months later for their annual check-up.