12/06/2014.Deputy Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional affairs, Obed Bapela and Minister of Health, Aaron Motsoaledi talks about the plans of their departments about the upcoming initiation season. Picture: Masi Losi

Cape Town - South Africa will start treating HIV-positive patients at an earlier stage starting next year, Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi said on Wednesday.

“As from January 2015, we shall start HIV-positive patients on treatment at CD4 count of less than 500 as against the CD4 count of less than 350,” Motsoaledi announced during his budget vote speech in Parliament.

The new treatment regime was in line with guidelines adopted by the World Health organisation (WHO) in 2013, which recommended that countries start treating HIV-positive patients on antiretroviral (ARV) drugs sooner.

In addition, South Africa would no longer terminate the treatment of HIV-positive women when they stopped breastfeeding their infants.

Instead, South Africa would adopt the WHO Option B Plus from January next year.

“Option B Plus simply means every pregnant HIV-positive woman goes on lifelong treatment, regardless of their CD4 status,” Motsoaledi explained.

“Treatment of as many people as possible has been found by research to be also a form or prevention.”

The new drug treatment regime would be coupled with prevention programmes.

The programmes would include massive condom distribution, a scaling up of medical male circumcisions, and testing campaigns. - Sapa